GeoSure is a new application for Apple devices that is designed to assist travelers by providing quantifiable, personalized travel security content. Think of it as a community-based global travel security app, or Waze for travel safety.
Crowdsourcing and data feeds from global sources fuel proprietary risk algorithms, delivering powerful threat temperatures to assess relative vulnerability anywhere in the world, to street-level, in real-time.
GeoSure has rated the safety of every country and every city in the world with a population of more than 100,000 people, with the exception of China and Japan where the cut-off is 200,000 people (until it can get better data).
Soon, every neighborhood of every city in the world will be covered. To the company's knowledge, this level of granularity hasn't been done before.
Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.
In the course of marketing products for another company operating in a related but saturated industry, two different realities quickly became apparent.
First, to move the needle, brand distinctiveness and unique, innovative services were required to be successful. Human capital could not carry the day and was unable differentiate the firm.
At the same time, I recognized a trending interest and demand from individuals and organizations for a specific service: accurate, detailed and high-quality travel risk assessments, competitively priced.
My former statistics professor, a data scientist and expert in predictive analytics, and I put our heads together.
We wondered if we could design a tool which to our knowledge, hadn’t been done before: a free app for the global travel community combining crowdsourcing, big data and statistical modelling for customized travel risk content, anywhere in the world, instantaneously.
Size of the team, names of founders, management roles and key personnel?
GeoSure has two (2) full time founders Michael Becker (CEO) and Dr. Donald Pardew (Chief Scientific Officer) and eight (8) Senior Advisors each with specific skillsets for the Company.
To date, solely by founders.
Estimation of market size?
Consumer market by volume: international flight arrivals growing from 1.1 billion in 2012 to 1.5 billion arrivals by 2017 (note, this only includes international flights, it does not include travel by rail, car or ship, nor does it include non-traveling citizen users).
Total arrivals (including domestic) is growing from 2.9 billion to 3.9 billion over roughly the same period.
Consumer market size by dollar volume is difficult to determine as most travel safety information services are free e.g., US State Dept and FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office, UK), TripAdvisor, travel websites, blogs and publications such as Lonely Planet or Rough Guides.
Total market size for commercial (corporate) security & safety MSS (Managed Security Services market segment) is ~$50 billion 2011 growing to ~$100 billion by 2021*.
Travel risk information and services is a small subset of MSS.
Consumer markets: Way to Safety, Global Secure, Safe to Go, OSS, Safe Trip, Safe Trek and US State Dept and FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth UK).
Commercial (corporate markets): iJet and ISOS.
Revenue model and strategy for profitability?
GeoSure has two primary market segments, consumer (B2C) and commercial (corporate) (B2B) and multiple potential revenue streams.
What problem does the business solve?
- Consumer revenue - freemium upgrade with expanded features, improved UI/UX.
- Commercial revenue - subscription based.
- Metadata - aggregating, packaging & marketing unique user content for insurance markets and travel & tourism and global intelligence services. Don Pardew has extensive experience in the metadata business.
- Country, City, Neighborhood safety ratings service.
- Index Product – creation of a unique index based on GeoSure data for every major city in the world. Sold for a nominal fee or given away free to worldwide media in exchange for GeoSure branding.
- Tradeable derivative securities structured around the index. Profitability strategy is to quickly develop increased functionality and improved features to accelerate freemium and subscription products. Simultaneously scale rapidly through globally recognized distribution partners.
In today’s world of increasing instability, health epidemics and trending geo-political concerns, travel from Sofia to Sao Paulo and anyplace in between raises questions and concerns.
While planning where and when to travel, especially destinations less familiar, consumers want to know what to expect in terms of wanted or unwanted experiences which may occur.
Travelers, DMOs, and the travel industry value chain is seeking improved travel safety content.
Problem 1: Traditional threat assessment reports are very expensive, take a days or weeks to complete and ironically can lack customized relevance for the user. GeoSure’s profile screen enables personalized assessments.
Problem 2: Free information sources such as web blogs, travel planning guides and government information are typically general, less detailed and in some cases, less timely. Such information can be subjective and prone to organizational or political judgements, and does not offer crowdsourced, customized or contextualized (numerical) content.
How did the initial idea evolve and were there changes/any pivots along the way in the early stages?
Sensing growing demand for improved, affordable travel threat content, we found few if any services existed which had modernized by applying what appeared to be practical technologies to improve performance and the customer experience: big data, crowdsourcing and statistical modelling.
So we developed a product combining those capabilities and delivered it via mobile, free. Our vision was to create the Waze of global travel security.
Coupled with a large and fast growing global travel market, trending geopolitical instability, proliferation of mobile use, the timing for such a product became apparent.
Although we haven't had pivots to date, we continue to find more and more applications (as well as revenue opportunities) and although appealing, coordinating different market and monetization paths requires organization and steady focus.
Why should people or companies use the business?
Consumer and business travellers increasingly seek travel safety content for themselves, their kids and their employees. They want to feel as if they have some control over safety issues, and to be able to react when things are changing.
From the consumer perspective, when kids are in the travel equation, that’s a game changer.
Travel risk data is obtainable if one knows how and where to harvest it, how to analyse massive data sets, apply modern technologies and statistical modelling to improve that data and turn it into valuable information. GeoSure has done all the heavy lifting.
Corporations have a very powerful demand driver: Duty of Care. DoC is a legal responsibility for companies to provide accurate, reliable safety and security resources and information for employees who travel across borders for work.
Increasingly, travellers want more detailed safety analysis of countries, cities, even neighborhoods. GeoSure has begun to partition every city in the world to the neighborhood level.
GeoSure has rated from a safety respect, every country and every city in the world with a population of over 100k (or a capital, or major point of entry, with the exception of China and Japan where the cut-off is 200k).
Soon, every neighborhood of every city in the world will be covered. To our knowledge, this level of granularity hasn’t been done before.
What is the strategy for raising awareness and the customer/user acquisition?
Partnering with recognized brands is our most important strategy. B2B marketing: large global brands adopt GeoSure and push to their constituents.
Platforms find GeoSure interesting because their customers increasingly want travel safety content.
For organizations, GeoSure can help to brand differentiate and build customer loyalty and trust. GeoSure is a value added service especially in insurance, travel & tourism and financial services industries.
To date, we’ve only focused on B2B marketing. For the consumer side, SEO, social, advertising and media outreach are initiatives for later this year and beyond.
The social impact side of GeoSure, is huge for us. Impact is also another exposure strategy.
GeoSure’s goals are to help make the world safer through innovative technical applications to increase awareness, and enable a better informed community.
Additionally, GeoSure encourages travel to all destinations to help support tourism economies, especially developing nations, where tourism plays an important contributing role.
Women’s safety is a vital objective for GeoSure as well. We’ve developed a dedicated women’s safety data category for the benefit of women.
We hadn’t seen any customized, data supported statistical analytic services specifically for women travellers, or female citizens. So we built one.
Where do you see the company in three years’ time and what specific challenges do you anticipate having to overcome?
Partnering with several global distribution partners and having achieved three or four of our identified revenue streams, at least two we expect to be recurring.
As it relates to consumers, what we have developed is a new standard for what we believe to be a growing consciousness: the need for personalized threat information, anywhere.
We hope and expect adoption by global travellers and citizens will be inevitable.
But it will take time. For commercial markets, creation of more powerful, accurate and advanced technologies and improved safety content at reduced costs we believe has disruption potential. This, too, will take time.
In the near term, a not insignificant challenge has not escaped us: how do you scale a global crowdsourcing platform?
Because there is so much information value embedded already, GeoSure does not live or die by the crowdsourcing side of the technology. But we believe that that component of data will ultimately create massive enterprise value.
Unlike some crowdsourcing platforms, there are data sets available which can help to populate GeoSure more rapidly.
By incorporating certain proprietary data sets and technologies we can enhance the experience to create a positive feedback loop, we believe will accelerate global use.
Another challenge is okay, so now I’ve got all this great information. What do I do with it?
We believe we have the answer in terms of ‘actionable’ features, solutions which users can implement to their advantage, as well as ‘regularizing’ use. These are coming in the very near future.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that it requires a startup like yours to help it out?
If the global travel & tourism industry’s biggest concern for 2015 is “fear” (fear of increasing global instability, elevated geo-political issues potentially dampening travel demand), GeoSure offers an innovative, granular, customized technology to help travelers make optimal decisions.
Our goal is to increase travel and support the global tourism industry. Additionally, our technology is meant to reflect what’s really happening on the ground, and that information may help assuage such fears.
Ultimately at scale, in the hands of lots and lots of users with localized input, GeoSure can be a concrete solution for the negative impact of travel advisories For a good example of the problem it could address, see “A Catch-22 in Kenya: Western Terrorism Alerts May Fuel Terrorism” in the New York Times.
What other technology company (in or outside of travel) would you consider yourselves most closely aligned to in terms of culture and style... and why?
There are so many great, innovative tech firms today.
Waze, the pioneering firm which created the market for community based traffic and navigation, is our role model.
Waze created a colossal market for road travel convenience, major traffic events and time saving information.
Uri Levine and his team proved brilliant in the conception of a new defined service which had not been done before. Education First (EF) is a firm we very much admire, too.
Started in the early 1960s by Bertil Hult, a young Swedish entrepreneur, he discovered an alternative to traditional class room teaching: language learning combined with travel abroad.
He developed experiential learning, today a benchmark for modern education. Education First is now one of the largest educational organizations in the world.
The vision and entrepreneurial passion of these firms is extremely inspiring and motivating.
Which company would be the best fit to buy your startup?
Our exit strategy is contemplated to be with an actor in the global travel & tourism, social media, insurance, financial services or information services sector.
We envision a complementary fit with powerful synergies with firms such as Master Card, TripAdvisor, Kayak, Expedia, Google, Reed Elsevier, Bloomberg, Liberty Global, AIG, ACE, Allianz or other information content providers.
Describe your startup in three words?
Global safety content.
Security has obviously become a buzzy topic for both leisure and corporate travelers. Many security information solutions are expensive, inadequate, or unpopular. That leaves a gap in the market that GeoSure could fill.
Yet it's less clear if security has become a core consideration for travelers, enough of a pain point that they're willing to download and use another app for.
Security is vital, but unlike traffic or gas/petrol prices, will people feel motivated to post updates? Or do too many travelers see security alerts as a function of embassies and news organizations?
A 2013 Frost & Sullivan Analysis of the Global Managed Security Services Market suggests that there is, in fact, market demand. But only actual market performance of the product will settle the question.
Another issue that leaps to mind about GeoSure is whether its founders know how to create a Waze-like platform as effectively as, well, Waze and as well as RouteHappy, a flight rating platform that recently entered into a partnership with Google Flights. Their startup experience is relatively untested. Seeking mentorship or an incubator might be helpful.
Developing a product with an eye to future partnerships or acquisition seems to be an obvious way for GeoSure to grow.
Tnooz looks forward to seeing the startup's progress.