This is the claim of Alexis Christodoulou, cofounder of Locish with Grigoris Zontanos. Locish is a Greek promising startup that is also set in San Francisco showing a clear service in a big and rapidly growing target market. Now, it can and wants to scale to the establishing.
Describe Locish in under 50 words
Locish is a Q&A mobile app enabling users to ask like-minded people for real-time recommendations on new places to eat, drink, and have fun. Each response is specific to the user’s individual inquiry and matched to their personal preferences.
Describe yourself in one sentence
Entrepreneur at heart, creative by nature, engineer by choice, eternally humble and always driven by the motto “do, learn, repeat”.
Tell us the Locish story. How and why was this project born?
Everything happened on a road trip from Vienna to Budapest, when my co-founder and I found it impossible to discover the city’s hidden gems despite the gadgets and apps we had available. All information was either outdated, in the local language, or very touristy. Frustrated, we were trying to find somewhere to go when the idea struck us. We needed an app that enabled travelers to ask locals for tips on where to go, helping them experience a new city with an insider’s perspective – avoiding tourist traps.
And so it all started. We agreed that upon our return back home we would start developing the app, and so we did. Once we’d made a start everything happened very fast. Within the first 6 months we managed to secure 60K euros in funding from Jeremie Openfund II, and soon after we launched the app in Athens (Greece), New York, and San Francisco. We got valuable feedback from our users. Following a more recent cash injection of $820,000 from venture capitalists, we’re now relaunching the app; overhauling its functionality, and creating a brand new look and feel. We made a bit of a pivot in the sense that the app is no longer solely aiming at helping travelers. We now more open, social, and interactive, and the app’s aimed at anyone in search of place to go and enjoy a meal or have fun.
What are you doing different from your competitors?
We believe that the generic ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to online recommendation systems is well and truly broken, because they do not acknowledge the individual needs of each user. This is what we want to change with Locish. We use a smart algorithm to match users based on their interests and tastes, enabling them to get real-time recommendations from like-minded people who are not in their extended social network. Most apps rely on their users’ friends and acquaintances. To us, this is not important. We believe that the best people to get recommendations from are those who have the same tastes as you. But we’re not just a Q&A application, we believe in having context among our community (read our blog post here for more).
What technologies have you used to build Locish? What was technically the most challenging part of developing Locish?
Our app is native iOS and Android written in Objective-c and Java. Our backend is build with raw PHP on nginx web server connecting to a MySQL database. All these are running on AWS instances, as also our static files are stored on Amazon S3. We are currently looking to the scenario of moving from PHP to Hack & HHVM, the new language and VM recently announced by Facebook, since it's much more promising for performance issues. As for the greatest challenge we have come across this is the real-time matching. When someone asks a question, Locish finds all the right/like-minded people, who score above a pre-defined threshold, and routes the question to them. This score is generated by our matching algorithm in real-time that is based on a very smart and complex design as it has to effectively route the hundreds of concurrent questions.
You have completed a pre-seed funding round that closed at 60K euros and you recently closed your seed funding round at $820K. Which were the main three factors to achieve it?
We found fundraising a tough and demanding process, but also a very rewarding one when successfully completed. As soon as investors agree to meet with you it means that you’ve already attracted their attention, so it’s important to make sure that you capitalize on the opportunity. As they invest their valuable time in you, in our experience, you need to make sure that you are very well prepared, confident about your product, have a clear vision about what you want to achieve, and can demonstrate great determination in achieving your goals.
What’s the startup ecosystem like in Greece?
The Greek startup ecosystem encourages a new way of doing things, which is considerably different to the traditional one. People get together talk business and are much more open and humble. They have meaningful interactions; exchange information, share experiences, seek feedback and learn from each others’ success and failure. Competitors help one another – encouraging healthy competition with the sole objective of growing by improving the quality of their products and meeting their customers’ needs more efficiently. And this is already showing results. The Greek startup community, although relatively new and small, is growing at a very fast pace – success stories include Bug Sense, Taxibeat, and Workable, to name a few. I would say that the Greek startup scene is very promising, a sign of change and a great example of how things should be happening in the business world.
If you could come back to the past, what would you do differently in your startup?
I wish I’d read a bit more before executing the app – I could have saved some valuable time. There’s so much information out related to startups – ‘dos and don’ts’ case studies, technical advice, tips on how to do things differently and more. This is a lesson learned and now that I have realized the importance of it I read as much as possible, which has made me considerably more efficient in many ways.
Your big mistake?
It may sound weird, but I wish I had pushed myself to make more mistakes. I am convinced that without making mistakes you cannot learn new things and this eventually makes you stagnate. “Do, Learn, Repeat” is a very wise quote, which has been driving my attitude from the day I came across it. The more things you try, the more mistakes you make, and the stronger you get. This is part of the magic of a startup.
You should not be scared of failure, but you should be able to get back on your feet soon after, stronger than before. A mistake should help you learn something new, so it has to be seen as a source of knowledge that will make you better.
What one piece of advice would you like to give to those who want to transform an idea into a business?
Be a doer. Don’t stay at home making plans eternally. Success comes only after we get our hands dirty by trying things for real. So I would say get out and start building your dream with actions and it will take shape much quicker than you expect it to. Try different things, experiment as much as possible, be humble and try to learn something new every day. I am not implying that there should be no preparation, but this is not the most important part when building your own startup.
What are you most excited about at the moment?
With no second thought, I would say the forthcoming re-launch of Locish in New York City, San Francisco, and Athens (Greece) in mid May. Following the cash injection of $820,000 we are all now working to overhaul the app’s functionality and create a brand new look and feel for Locish; getting ready to offer our users a great experience.
In the meantime, we invite you to submit your email address on our new redesigned website at www.locish.com and be among the first to experience the all-new Locish as soon as it launches.
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