Taking a Break from the Mundane with pocketvillage

By David Knight |

Scuba diving with sharks in Thailand, looking for ghosts in Venice or close-up encounters with polar bears in the frigid arctic – those unusual and inspiring holidays you’ve always dreamed about while sitting on a crowded Mediterranean beach are out there. And it has become much less daunting to take the plunge and do something a bit different thanks to pocketvillage.

Set up to create a web-based platform which collects and presents offers from niche vacation providers, Stuttgart-based pocketvillage allows travelers to search for their individual needs and to receive presonalized recommendations. The website contains thousands of unusual tours, activities and accommodation from a number of different providers including Responsibletravel, Intrepid Travel and Tripbod.

Florian Harkort, CEO of pocketvillage and one of its five co-founders, said: “The travel market clearly shows that many people are looking for extraordinary experiences off the beaten track. There is no Opodo or Expedia for such vacations, but rather a myriad number of very specialized providers e.g. for volunteering holidays or round the world trips.”

The website was launched at the ITB Berlin travel expo on March 11, and developed the beta version of its iPhone app soon after. CTO and co-founder Jann Kleen told Silicon Allee: “Imagine being stuck at the airport for a few hours or even days when your airplane is delayed because yet another volcano erupted. With our app you can simply check for available activities nearby and spent a great day instead of wasting your time at the airport.”

The app won first place at THack in Las Vegas in April, and the team is hoping to release it within the next few months. They are also developing an API to publish their offers on third party websites. And the recognition didn’t stop there: On June 1, pocketvillage itself was voted Best Startup 2011 by the German Association for Online Travel Distribution (VIR e.V.) at its Online Innovations Days in Berlin. Kleen added: “We have to admit that we are more than happy and flattered about the prize and the recognition we received from the travel industry.”

Also in the pipeline are a release with prices in US dollars and pounds as well as euros, and a multilingual version of the site.

But what’s the key to their success? Kleen said: “The activities and tours sector lacks common data formats and standards. Aggregating, analyzing, categorizing, and constantly updating the content from so many and completely different XML feeds, APIs, and CSV files is an incredibly time-consuming task. Having developed systems to automate many of the involved steps is one of our strongest competitive advantages as travelers can now actually compare the offers with one another.

“Plus: If people know about those kind of travel offers at all, they don’t know where to look for them or how to compare them. pocketvillage is now able to provide them with this information. They can now get completely new ideas using our “Inspire Me process”, which boils down all the data we collected (climate, landscape and much more) to a simple interface. The user can just create a postcard of his dream holiday and we’ll find it for him. He can save a lot of time with this and is able to compare the offers with one another.”