Jervis is the founder of eXpertLocal.com, a place to discover things to do from the perspective of someone who is passionate about showing you his/her view of life. Whether you’re a local who is looking for a new way to view your city or suburb, or a visitor looking for an authentic travel experience, you can find an “expert local” to show you. It’s about bringing people up close and personal with the music, arts and culture scene, bringing foodies together to discover new culinary experiences, making things through like minded interest and really just enjoying the sides of a place you simply wouldn’t get in a touristy situation.
I am inspired by the idea of being able to make a living doing what I love – which is discover new things, meet new people and enjoy things I might not have had the courage to try solo.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
After 12 years in the corporate world I was ready to do something that would actually bring me closer to something I could get excited about doing on a day to day basis. While watching the series “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations“, it always intrigued me that Tony could always find the hosts who could treat him to the local culture and cuisine.
The question that kept coming to mind was.”How did he find these people?”
Time after time, his hosts took him to the best places to sample the authentic local cuisine. It seemed so very easy. But it got me thinking about my own love of food and travel. I realised if I wanted to uncover who actually made the best deconstructed lamington or where were the surf breaks that local surfers chose to go to in order to avoid the crowds, I wouldn’t have a clue.
So the theme became discovering exciting experiences with the right people. Discover things that make us feel alive, excited! Getting out and about, finding the fun and interesting things to do – and what better way to do it than with fun and exciting people who live and breathe what they are showing you?
eXpertLocal was launched to build a community with the view of connecting people with enthusiastic locals who have the passion and talent and want to share that little part of their world with others.
How do you make money? (please explain your business model)
We take a modest commission from the sale of all paid experiences. This is used to cover our labour and operating costs, transaction fees with our secure payment gateway, and offering great customer service.
Like any startup, we’re looking at what models we can use to generate revenue on a regular basis, but we’re keen to test to see if we can get the adoption first. And we’re community minded – so we also offer free experience listings for community groups and individuals who wish to use eXpertLocal to promote their activities or meet friends as opposed to making money from the site.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next three months?
We actually just finished on free experiences, where a Host can offer an activity without charging any money. We got a lot of feedback from people who wanted to simply ‘test the waters’ first to try it out and see how comfortable they would be in hosting and didn’t feel right charging any money. We also noticed there is a market for simply running activities for free such as ‘Search for the perfect iced coffee’.
I’m working on eXpertLocal while still at my nine-to-five job, albeit part-time. So between my job and my business, there isn’t much time for anything else. I try to attend all our activities when time permits, too.
We’re also having a Launch Party at the end of June, so if anyone wants to come along let us know. We’re doing that in conjunction with the Freelance Jungle and would love to see other startup people come, too. We’re inviting a whole bunch of people who are interested in Sydney from the creative, travel and foodie perspectives and taking over a Redfern bar called Hustle and Flow– should be a great night!
How do you make ideas happen?
To-do lists and my calendar! I forget things quickly so I HAVE to write it down. Also, breaking things down into small actionable items so the world doesn’t seem so big. I am inspired by the idea of being able to make a living doing what I love – which is discover new things, meet new people and enjoy things I might not have had the courage to try solo. It helps to have a dream in mind when things are a little tough!
What does your typical day look like? (please also include a photo of your workspace)
Typical days no longer exist really. Let’s see……there’s meeting potential Hosts, sometimes for coffee, sometimes on Skype. In between there’s email, catching up with my marketing expert (Rebekah) and Sydney Pioneer (Scott) working on our plans….and making more plans, interspersed with going to experiences, occasionally meeting up with other startup people for inspiration and a chat, before doing it all again.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
Not sure if this is really related to being in Australia, but being a non-developer has been somewhat of a disadvantage. I am not in a position to simply ‘try’ things on the website to see if they work. But in saying that one of the biggest advantages has been that I’ve been able to launch the website while still working full-time, and my web designer is fantastic!
Also, setting up a payment gateway and merchant account (so something other than PayPal), although it seems to be improving slightly.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
Don’t get too caught up in the start-up community and spend your time trying to go to ALL the startup events and seminars. Instead get out of the building and meet your customers.
It might be a bit awkward at first, but not only will it make them feel special and want to use your product, but after you’ve finished you’ll have a great sense of achievement and will have learnt a lot more about what they want.
Also, anyone looking to open a café, a really great breakfast cafe in the lower north shore. I don’t think one exists at the moment. Unless someone has a tip for me that is?
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
Everybody in the collaborative consumption space is great here in Sydney. The concept of connecting people-to-people and the sharing economy has really taken gained momentum and all the startups are working together to spread the word.
What about internationally
Locally and internationally, the travel bloggers, independent guides and permanent nomads are truly inspiring. As are the people who are that passionate about food, arts and culture, fitness or their personal interest that are willing to spend their spare time investing in sharing their stories are truly inspiring. It’s amazing to see people using their version of travel or the scenes they love to promote harmony, embracing new cultures, being respectful of the planet and more through online blogging.
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
I think every new business (and existing ones as well) should look at how they can build a charitable business model into their business plan. For example, at eXpertLocal one of the things we want to achieve is to allow people in less fortunate communities host tours & activities. Not only does this provide valuable financial assistance, it allows them to raise their plight and general awareness to their cause.
What has happened in the UK with homeless tour guides, Europe or the USA with looking inside what it is really like for people living in poverty is very powerful. Each of us has something to share, and if eXpertLocal can help give people who have felt some of the biggest hardships life has to offer a chance to share their story, we’d love to work with them.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?
TED – to get inspired.
StumbleUpon – to find things you never otherwise would.
Seth Godin Blog – there are other’s too, but this one consistently makes sense.
Name 3 Australians we should follow on Twitter?
Sorry, but I just haven’t been able to get into twitter, really no time. I don’t get how people can scroll through literally hundreds of posts every day! Everyone tells me it’s a very valuable tool so I just need to find some time to try and get into it.
I would suggest anyone looking into the collaborative consumption scene or sharing economy should keep an eye on @collcons as well as @dasharp (the Australian rep for Shareable) as there’s always good info to be found there.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
Yes, so although we’re Sydney focused at the moment, the aim is to grow. So we are actively looking for Pioneers throughout Australia. A Pioneer is someone who knows a few people who could be great as our next bunch of hosts and can introduce them to eXpertLocal before we launch in a new city or town! You’d be our talent scout, promoter and all round guide to new places.
If that’s you, don’t be shy, get in touch! As this is people powered, the more enthusiastic, interesting and shiny faces we can see, the better.
Our readers are smart, creative, talented and good looking. Here’s your chance to ask them anything.
Actually I do have one question I’m curious about. Anyone out there that has either run, or looking to run focus groups, or conduct (or has conducted) research with a group of people…..HOW did you find your people? What challenges did you face? Please email me at [email protected]
Beyond that, eXpertLocal is based in Sydney where we’re currently running our Beta phase. If all goes well, we’re looking to expand throughout Australia soon. So if you’re a keen enthusiast and would love to show-off your passion or talent let us know.
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
What is your favourite song by an Australian artist at the moment?
Last few months The Rubens have been really standing out.
We thought it would be cool to crowdsource an annual prize to award to the interviewee’s choice (each person interviewed gets one vote) winner for the year’s best interview. Are you willing to kick in a prize?
Yeah sure. I’d offer lunch with me…..but does anyone really want that? How about a free pass to any experience listed on our website under $100 in your city.