Shamans and London Cabs: Gidsy’s Edial Dekker Q&A

By David Knight |

Edial Dekker is the CEO of Gidsy, which allows users to find and offer “experiences” such as cooking classes or guided walks. Silicon Allee caught up with him at the firm’s Kreuzberg office.

SILICON ALLEE: You’ve just launched Gidsy in London, the fifth city overall. How has it been going?

EDIAL DEKKER: The news about London was kind of overshadowed by the Ashton Kutcher news, but there has been some super awesome stuff organised there. There is a cab driver called Robert who drives people around in his taxi and shows them the history of London, like the Harry Potter tour. It’s really cool because you’re sitting in his cab and he explains everything; sometimes you get out and he shows you super weird places like a prostitutes’ graveyard.

SA: You are launching in Los Angeles soon. What lessons have you learned so far?

ED: Every city works differently. That is something we have learnt in the past few months. We have had a lot of feedback and have taken a lot on board. We’re now improving existing things but also working on features that stimulate and multiply network effects in all sorts of things, like bookings.

SA: Is the process becoming easier?

ED: We still try different ways to roll it out, then we see what works and what doesn’t. I think it’s more important to fail a few times than to have everything right. Because we’re not really in an optimizing part right now; we know how some stuff works and other stuff doesn’t, but product wise there are loads of things we can do to improve experiences like booking and organising.

SA: What’s next for Gidsy?

ED: We want to make it a lot more social. For example, yesterday I did a cooking class at my place with four people. One person there was a journalist, one guy was on his fifth Gidsy activity, and for one girl, it was her eighth activity. She was from Taiwan, had moved to Berlin six months ago and didn’t know anyone. Her English was really bad at first, and she would just be going to Gidsy activities to meet people. That’s so cool. She says her English has got a lot better now through Gidsy, and she’ll be booking loads more in the future. She was so excited about the whole thing; Gidsy is such a social experience, it’s a lot more than just booking an activity. That is what we are realising. We are making it much more social with small improvements, like showing who is going to an activity. You can see if this cute guy or cute girl has already booked it… these kind of things. Deeper Facebook integration, that’s important; just a lot of small ways to make it more social. We want to trigger conversations, because that’s what you see happening a lot.

SA: Do you put on a lot of events yourself?

ED: Everyone in the company does events; that’s really important to us. Some people organise things, but everyone at least books things. I think that’s the only way, really; to eat your own dogfood. It’s so helpful. You know exactly what the questions are, what happens where; it’s direct feedback.

SA: What’s the strangest event you’ve ever seen on Gidsy?

ED: We have a really crazy one in San Francisco where this Shaman takes people on walks through the forest. He’s a really interesting guy, John is his name, and he walks you through the forest, telling stories about metaphysics, and how water flows, really cool stuff. He mixes up Shamanism with metaphysics and it’s really crazy but a lot of fun.

SA: It is easy to expand into other cities and countries?

ED: There are a lot of cultural differences. You need to be able to support local payments; you need to be able to support local payouts. Maybe there are different currencies, or different languages. You have to have a geo-search. There are a lot of things to think about, actually. Also, for example, what happens if you search for somewhere like Vienna? We Google Vienna, but what happens if you Google Wenen, what you’d call the city in the Netherlands, instead? So there are loads of things that come into play when it’s a global launch, and we have been working on that very hard.

SA: What is your ultimate aim with Gidsy?

ED: In eight months, we want to make it possible for anyone in the world to just get out your mobile phone, see all the things to do nearby, and you can find all that stuff. That’s how we want it to work.

SA: You recently revealed that Hollywood star Ashton Kutcher had come on board as an investor. What sort of impact have you seen from the deal?

ED: It doesn’t hurt, that’s for sure. We get a lot of traction, we see a lot of new users, but Ashton Kutcher as a brand is also really interesting. It fits Gidsy well, and that helps us a lot, especially in the long term I think. And just having him involved, as a person, not as a celebrity, he’s a really nice guy and he knows what he’s talking about and that’s also very helpful to us.

SA: What else do you have in the works?

ED: We are focusing on making Gidsy more social, like deeper Facebook integration but also showing who is going to events. Another thing we have been working is called the special event. At the moment, as an organiser, you schedule events, so next week, Wednesday, for four to eight people, and it costs €10. That’s one way to do it – the other way is for you to contact an organiser and say something like, hey, I’m in town with my family next week, we’ll be five people, can we set up an event? The organiser can then send you an offer which you can accept and make the booking. So it’s kind of the other way around. It will be a cool feature.

SA: Have things developed quicker than you expected?

ED: I think it’s super important to be very fast. Our whole company and everyone who works here are very much driven by optimizing work processes. It’s vital for us to be as fast as possible, and we feel that we are in a phase of the company where we can be very fast. We have investors, but they are not investors who slow us down. It’s one of the core values that we have in the company; to be very fast and very productive. And we have very normal working hours; that’s another thing we find extremely important.

SA: How so?

ED: It’s definitely not a sprint – it’s a marathon. We feel that’s the way to run the company. We know what it’s like: When we were doing the design studio, we used to work seven days a week, and you don’t realise it when you’re doing it, but actually you can be a lot more productive and creative when you’re just working normal hours. It’s not like you don’t think about work when you’re not there – I go home and I still read stuff; I’m not in the office working on some design for three hours but I still think about it, in the shower the next day for example. It’s really nice to have a nice work personal life separation.

SA: Do you still go to a lot of meet ups?

ED: Meet ups are great, but they must be relevant. There is no point in going to a meet up for the sake of it, that’s really not a good reason, I think. I really hate it when people are boasting about how much they work. It’s the saddest thing ever. It’s really not something you can be proud of. It’s bad management and you have a really shitty quality of life too. And you will realise it later.