The idea: American-born founder Peter Petracca initially found it difficult to adapt to life in Hanoi. When he wanted to rent a motorbike or find a 24-hour pharmacy, he didn’t know where to look. After a few months, that began to change. “I’d built a network of locals whom I could ask anything,” he recalls. The idea to share these insider tips and tricks grew into this app-based concierge service.
The story so far: Launched in 2016, it received a grant from the Mekong Innovative Startups in Tourism.
The users: Mostly expats but tourists now make up 25% of users.
How it works: Available for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, users pay a flat fee for unlimited service for a determined period of time.
The idea: Founder Langda Chea grew frustrated when trying to book with inter-city bus services in Cambodia. Back then, the only way to check availability was to contact multiple bus companies who required payment in person to secure a physical ticket. His solution: to create an integrated booking portal.
The story so far: Established in 2015, BookMeBus allows passengers to choose seats, pay online and receive an e-ticket. It has since expanded to ferries, private cars and cross-border connections.
The users: Tourists were early adopters but it’s now making inroads with locals.
How it works: Apart from showing seat availability, it also partners local mobile money transfer services so customers can pay in person at over 10,000 outlets.
The idea: When in Nepal, Singaporean entrepreneur Jamon Mok and his partners met a mask carver, who invited them to learn the craft. That encounter inspired them to promote such immersive experiences around the world. “Instead of giving grants, we wanted to develop social enterprises with their own revenue streams,” Mok shares.
The story so far: In 2014, Backstreet Academy was launched, a platform enabling travellers to book hands-on experiences with local hosts. In 2017, they received a €400,000 grant from Booking.com’s accelerator programme.
The users: Travellers looking to connect with local artisans and experts and learn more about their trade.
How it works: Travellers can sign up for experiences such as knife-making in Luang Prabang and flute-making in Kathmandu.
Illustration by Gordon Studer
This article was originally published in the February 2018 issue of Silkwinds magazine.