Townske: the Aussie startup app making the globe local for travellers

Aja Stuart

The need for a great coffee is real. Sometimes the need is so strong it makes you start a business.

At least, it made Daniel Clark and Joe Vuong start a business. A second business, to be exact.

Clark and Vuong are the founders of Townske, an app born out of the need for local knowledge. The app brings together travellers and locals with the idea of unlocking local knowledge for travellers who want to get beneath the surface of an unfamiliar city and truly experience it as a local.

"We wanted to connect with small businesses doing really cool things."

They identified the need for Townske while on a trip to New York and trying to get a decent caffeine fix.

“It was the first time we were in New York, it’s such an overwhelming city, and we just wanted a really good coffee,” explains Clark. “We didn’t know anywhere and so we just ended up going to Starbucks. We went to Starbucks so much that we were recognised by one of the baristas in Times Square.”

If they could of had it another way, they would have. Says Clark, “We wanted to connect with small businesses doing really cool things, as opposed to chain stores, so we jumped on these apps to try and find them, but it was all about what’s nearby, rather than what you want.”

“We thought it would be great if you could find people similar to you and get their recommendations.”

“Now we have about five thousand people who publish on the platform."

In typical entrepreneurial style, they thought up a solution and went for it. The first step was to recruit their local city guides, and the uptake was strong.

“We reached out to bloggers all over the world to let them know what problem we were trying to solve,” says Clark. “There was a whole bunch of people who thought it was an amazing idea.”

“Now we have about five thousand people who publish on the platform and they’re passionate about giving good recommendations for their city.”

Townske co-founders Joe Vuong and Daniel Clark.

The content has come thick and fast. It covers cities across the globe, recommendations have grown organically, and the app has begun to take on a life of its own. “We have content on most of the big cities,” Clark says.  “People are writing about cafes, art galleries, you name it. You can write about anything.”

“Some of the nature guides are really nice. We didn’t really plan that. We were just thinking about venues when we started it,” he says. “It’s really good to see what you can do with the platform. You can do anything. So they do.”

"One of the great things that has come from starting the Townske app is the community that has formed."

Townske launched last year, and in a busy year there has been a few great moments.

"The launch was obviously really good for us,” Clark says.

One particular highlight? “We ran a competition with Tahiti Tourism to send six people to Tahiti to write content. Eight people went in total, six winners and two guides. It was great. We had hundreds of entries,” says Clark.

For Clark, one of the great things that has come from starting the Townske app is the community that has formed. “When we travel and meet up with the community we’ve discovered that the community is a really nice bunch of people,” he says. Having such great people on board has been a boon for Townske. Clark says, “the quality that’s come through, it’s really good for user generated content.”

While it seems like a dream run, there have been some tricky spots. “We knew it was going to be hard, but everything is always harder than you think it is,” says Clark.

“People either love the idea or they don’t get what we’re trying to do.”

New concepts bring unknown challenges. For Townske, the challenges have been “trying to get consumers to come back and remember our brand. And trying to get people to understand the concept. It’s a new thing and it’s very hard for them to get it,” says Clark.

“People either love the idea or they don’t get what we’re trying to do.”

Another interesting aspect of Townske is its lack of monetisation. For the time being it is run on altruism and community spirit. “We have another company, rushfaster.com.au, and Townske doesn’t need to make money right now because of that,” Clark says. “We just pay for that.”

After a great first year, the year ahead looks promising. “We’re looking at next year now and there’s a few different things we’re looking at,” says Clark. “We want to make a more useful app for consumers, look at what they are and aren’t using.”

There are some shiny new features being considered too. “We’re building some smarts into it. Like have Townske understand when you’ve arrived at a new city and show you some of the stuff that’s there,” Clark says.

“It’s all about finishing touches that makes something really useful and that people get value out of.”

Aja Stuart

Aja is Sydney-based writer and serial entrepreneur. She regularly writes about small business, entrepreneurship, and health and wellbeing. Her latest entrepreneurial adventure is yeahmama.co.

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