Tapping the Travel Market in Berlin the Way to Go

By David Knight |

It seems travel is the new black, at least when it comes to target user groups for startups: Following in the footsteps of the unlike city guides and micro-guide KiezExplorer is Shiroube. Instead of providing online information, however, Shiroube hooks travellers up with local guides in actual human form.

Dubbed the AirBNB for individual tourist guides, Shiroube is a marketplace which connects local residents with visitors, allowing the latter to hire the former to show them around. The two founders are both Japanese, and the firm is based in Tokyo, London and Paris. One of the co-founders, Tatsuo Sato, revealed how the idea for Shiroube came from personal experience – in particular when he was travelling in Eastern Europe.

“I arranged Japanese lessons for a local student and I asked him show me around the local area. So the arrangement was that I taught and spoke Japanese with him and he guided me his city. Although the city had some touristic places and historical interest, the tour he gave me was far beyond ordinary, the one that I had expected. We went his elementary school, a restaurant where his friend worked, a university class, clubs and the neighbourhood as only local people knew.

“If I had just been following a guide book, these kinds of experience wouldn’t have happened. And the arrangement worked for both sides: I got a tour and he got the rare chance of lessons.”

While the startup is not based in Berlin, it is focused on Europe and the German capital is one of the continent’s biggest tourist draws – so hopefully Shiroube will help some hard-up entrepreneurs some extra cash while they work on the next big thing.

It is also interesting to note that it is merely the latest – and certainly won’t be the last – travel-based internet service, taking advantage of an increasingly large, tech-savvy traveller demographic. After all, what does a traveller need more than accurate info on the go (from personal experience, for example, having a guide to Hanoi on the iPhone was an absolute blessing in the middle of the Old Quarter maze) whether it be in digital of human form? And Berlin, with its hordes of tourists, is surely one of the best places to benefit from that.