Small Business & Startups, Technology, and Travel & Tourism

Start Garden invests $20K more in local guides

February 2, 2015
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Start Garden invests $20K more in local guides
Localfu is a web app that connects tourists to personalized itineraries by local guides. Photo via

A web service that gives local knowledge to tourists has received $20,000 more from Start Garden based on its growth.

Localfu, a web-based platform leveraging a community of local residents to create custom, affordable travel plans for tourists, was selected for an additional $20,000 investment last week by Start Garden at its January Update Night.

Beating the beaten path

As a sharing-economy service, Localfu connects travelers with a hometown expert who suggests detailed travel plans based on individualized interests and needs.

The user is able to select a $5 plan from a number of local resident experts in the shop for personalized itineraries.

The Localfu expert is then compensated 80 percent of the transaction, or $4, for each list of suggestions that are chosen by a traveler.

The responsive web app is also accessible through mobile devices.

Growth in 90 days

Initially selected for an initial $5,000 investment by Start Garden last October, Localfu had 90 days to prove the startup service was market and customer validated and could viably scale into an operational business.

Roger Graham, founder of Localfu, said during that time period, the biggest accomplishment was the growth in users and people signing up as local experts.

“We have nearly 300 locals and 110 cities. It is really kind of exciting,” Graham said. “We figured out all the details, the intricacies of the platform, the logistics. . . . Now we have a very consistent, repeatable experience of the platform, and it is growing steadily.”

Graham also invested in an advertising campaign with Google and used Craiglist to post part-time employment listings to attract people to sign up as local resident experts.

In a span of four weeks, Localfu grew from 42 cities, 63 itineraries and 550 users to nearly 110 cities, 515 itineraries and 3,800 users.

Moving forward

Localfu will use the additional Start Garden funds to prove its model on a larger scale and sustain its continued growth, Graham said.

“There are a lot of ups and downs in the startup world, and the ups are few and far between,” Graham said. “This is a very big up. It was a moment of peace, I’d say more than anything. The goal will be basically to continue with the current growth mechanics and try a few new ones. While the growth has been good, it is not the height of the travel season.”

Rick DeVos, CEO at Start Garden, said it was an impressive experiment, and the team would like to see what Graham can do with more funding.

“Localfu is tapping into several converging trends, including real time, on-demand data, as well as utilizing the shared opinions of locals to connect people to communities,” DeVos said. “Roger is a scrappy entrepreneur who is creating exponential growth for Localfu. He has earned the next step of funding.” 

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