Portland-based mobile tour curation app Spotsi wants to help users unlock the hidden stories of a city. Thanks to the Portlandia mobile tour on Spotsi, users can visit the locations of their favorite Portlandia scenes.
In the breakout hit IFC television series Portlandia, the city of Portland, Oregon wasn’t just the setting of the show. It was the lead character. Show stars Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen created recurring characters based on the quirky residents of Portland, and many of the scenes were shot on location at famous cultural landmarks in the city like Burnside Skatepark and the Mayor’s office. Spotsi’s Portlandia tour offers 24 locations for users to visit. Users can even view the corresponding scene on their mobile phone while standing at the locations where the scenes were shot.
Spotsi’s three co-founders have a design and interaction background, and it shows. Lauren Wolff, CEO, earned her MFA in Design as Entrepreneur at the famous School of Visual Arts in New York City. Anthony Carroll, president and CTO, is a seasoned web developer who was previously the CTO and analyst at Psychster Inc, a social media and computing firm focused on the psychology of users engaging with the social web. Dr. Sam Gosling is a professor at the University of Texas Austin, and the author of Snoop: What your stuff says about you. The team’s background is a key indicator that Spotsi isn’t just another mobile tour startup competing with Tagwhat and mTrip. Spotsi tours aren’t even close your Mother’s favorite historical walking tours (sorry mom!).
One key differentiator of Spotsi is that its platform allows users to create and share tours. Spotsi integrates with Instagram and Foursquare to suggest tours to users that they may want to create. For example, if you frequently visit Brooklyn coffeeshops, Spotsi nudges you to create a tour and share your knowledge with the world. It also integrates with users’ social graph, so tours are always relevant and current. Anyone who has been on a tour with a guide knows that the standard script never goes into the things that you truly want to know about a place.
Wolff dreamed up the idea for Spotsi while spending 48 hours in Rome. According to Wolff, she “really wanted to get to the heartbeat of the city.” She met up with a friend of a friend who was an archeologist who worked in the Colosseum dig, who shared quirky stories about the art and architecture of Rome that Wolff would not have experienced if she was with a standard tour guide.
Spotsi was part of the Portland Incubator Experiment’s second class of startups that debuted at demo day last winter. Here is its pitch video from PIE’s demo day.
Spotsi’s revenue comes from three channels: advertising, exclusive white labeled app partnerships with airlines and hotels, and subscriptions for brands. The company raised a $20,000 friends and family round in addition to the $18,000 PIE program investment. It was seeking $400,000 at demo day, but it has not announced a closed round since.
Because the platform relies on user generated content to grow the number of tours, Spotsi has the classic chicken and egg problem of trying to get users to both consume and create content at the same time. Right now, the number of tours on the platform is lacking in the depth and breadth of content that is really needed to make this app useful. The platform is still young and early adopters are doing their best to populate the site with interesting tours.
Although Portland is currently the front runner in terms of tours, people in any city can download Spotsi and start creating tours across the U.S.