Gidsy, a new company from Germany, could be a way for you to make a few bucks from your more unusual talents.
Gidsy is a “marketplace for authentic experiences,” and it just landed a $1.2 million investment from a combination of Sunstone Capital, Index Ventures, Werner Vogels (CTO of Amazon), and the actor Ashton Kutcher.
Gidsy’s founders were running a design studio in Berlin when they came up with the idea. “We were looking for someone to go mushroom picking in Berlin because we wanted to make a mushroom risotto and we couldn’t find anyone who could help us with that,” says co-founder Edial Dekker. “That’s when we came up with the idea of Gidsy. How great would it be if anyone could organize a robotics workshop, city walk or cooking class?”
Gidsy places great emphasis on naming the individual organizing the experience, although these organizers may sometimes be running small businesses. “Individuals run the Gidsy marketplace, so Gidsy activities end up being very much about the hosts’ personalities and quirks,” Dekker says. “The experiences are better because they’re expressions of an individual’s personality and passion. Instead of attending a yoga class at a gym, for example, you’ll find an expert on Gidsy offering candle-lit yoga classes on a rooftop.”
Gidsy launched in New York, Berlin and Amsterdam in November and will expand to London and San Francisco in the next two weeks. “There is a lot of demand from other cities but every new city requires a lot of resources,” said Sunstone Capital Partner Nikolaj Nyholm. The new funding will be spent on rolling the service out globally.
It’s free to create an experience listing. Gidsy takes care of money transaction fees, customer support, cancellations, refunds and marketing in return for a 10 percent service charge. If a cancellation occurs more than one week before an experience, organizers keep 50 percent of the charge; if it’s less than two days, then the organizer is paid in full. To protect users, organizers do not receive payments (via Paypal) until at least 24 hours after the experience. The minimum charge for an experience is $5.
Gidsy is not alone in this space. 500 startups investment Vayable already operates in Berlin, New York and several other cities. It charges a 15 percent service fee while another rival Sidetour takes 20 percent. Gidsy’s founders claim that their service offers superior tools for organizers and social utilities for users. “We are very much focused on group bookings and connecting people,” explains Dekker. “If you have booked the same activity, there’s a high chance these people have something in common. We try to spark that conversation.”
The Dekker brothers (Edial’s brother Floris is also a co-founder) are imports to startup hotspot Berlin, hailing originally from Amsterdam. “It’s been said before, but the city of Berlin feels very much like a startup,” Dekker told me. “It’s changing all the time, it’s chaotic, exciting and disruptive. Add a bunch of amazing startups such as Soundcloud, Amen, Readmill and 6wunderkinder to that and you have the most exciting startup city in Europe.”
Gidsy was founded in 2011, is based in Berlin and has 6 employees.
Gidsy isn’t the first of Kutcher’s Berlin investments. He is also an investor in Soundcloud, which recently received $50 million from Kleiner Perkins and Amen. In fact, the actor has proved to be a surprising savvy tech investor although he has been criticized for promoting his own investments on his sitcom “Two and a half men” and as guest editor of Details magazine. His previous punts include AirBnB, Foursquare, Path and Flipboard. “We were specifically looking for someone with a non-technical background, but strong product understanding, and Kutcher certainly qualifies here, ” said Sunstone Capital partner Nikolaj Nyholm. Kutcher has also been spotted out on the town in Berlin, so presumably he likes the place.