See The World Through A Local Lens At Placeknow
A world map made of photographs. A social network of strangers learning about each other and their communities through personal pictures. A platform for towns or cities to let people know about local ongoings. These are just a few snapshots of Co-Founder Lukasz Sobanski’s vision for his startup Placeknow.
Travel brochures and guide books give prospective visitors a great idea about what different places in the world have to offer, but only the local citizens can tell an outsider what it’s really like in any specific place. Placeknow.com aims to make everything local global through the world of photographs. Evolving with its users, the website is part Pinterest, part travel search engine, part social network, and more. Book your passage to Poland here as Sobanski lets KillerStartups zoom in for a closer look at his budding company.
Why did you create your startup? Was it inspired by a specific event or incident?
The idea came from three friends who wanted to go on holiday. They wanted to see were they where going before embarking on their trip, and realized that there was a gap in the internet for searching any location in the world and viewing images related to that location. They reasoned that if they had wanted to see images taken by local people or visitors to a particular location, then other people would want to do the same. From that specific incident came the idea to found Placeknow. Friends wanted to create a global portal that was not limited by the confines of geography or location. Due to the global nature of their idea they needed a global portal to fulfill this need.
How’d you come up with the name for your company?
When we conceived of Placeknow, we thought of integrating two words that could describe the service we were offering. We had several ideas– cityknow, cityidea, etc. We decided against these options because these described only specific locations i.e cities, whereas we wanted to show cities, towns, villages, wildlife, scenescapes and so forth.
What’s the very first thing you do at work everyday?
The first thing we do in the morning is switch on some music, make coffee and complain about the weather–it’s too hot, humid, wet, cold. We also log onto Pidgin so we can message each other with funny stuff during the day.
How many people did you start the company with and how many people work for you now?
When Placeknow was founded there were 5 employees, now we are currently seven.
Remember the early days starting up? Maybe you can share one anecdote that describe the struggle you went through?
When we wanted to start Placeknow, we sought investors to get us of the ground from our native Poland. They consistently told us that a start up in this European backwater could not be successful because we did not have our roots in the big start up capitals in the world.
How do you handle frustration? When/how was the last time you dealt with frustration?
Taking a time out to gather one’s thoughts is the best way to deal with frustration. I avoid making decisions when I am angry.
What’s your office environment like? Is it the kind of place where everyone is bumpin’ away to house music or is it more traditional?
Our office is not a traditional office. We interact a lot between the marketing and programming team and myself . We let ourselves get distracted sometimes, we are human! We are lively, loud, and happy. We let people manage their own time, and it helps them produce the necessary results.
How do you picture your company in 5 years?
I see the next 5 years in 2 stages. The first 2 years we would like to grow our user base. The second stage, the next three years, we want to be the premier global source of information with regard to destinations.
What are the features that will keep people coming back for more?
Placeknow has evolved into an international photo directory service. It is truly global portal and gives people the ability to see places that they wish to visit. This keeps people engaged: the ability to upload your own travel photographs, and having people commenting and following each others travels. Users can also comment and message each other about whatever they like. Friendships are being born between people who never knew each other.
Placeknow has become a community of people with interests in travel photographs and social networking. We have added a new functionality to book and search hotel’s online, and we believe that this will help us develop and be at the forefront of global travel in the years to come.
What features will be added next? What have users already requested?
We are currently establishing partnerships with cities to enable them to promote their city and local tourist offices on placeknow.com. We are also giving local businesses the opportunity to post local offers on our site. This will enable our users to realize the best value for their money, and also attract new users. Users have been engaging with us through our Ambassador program. Feedback about the site (related to the ease of use and functionality) has been good. We are developing a new design for the website, hopefully to be up and running in september 2012.
We have locations that do not have images related to them, and we have been actively trying to improve the database in these regions. This has mainly been done through natural growth in user numbers and also through targeted campaigning. The global nature of the project means that this is a challenge, but we are confident that we can overcome this.
Who or what inspires YOU? Role models? Quotes? Running? Video games? Snack food?
Marek Kaminski is a Polish polar explorer, author, and photographer. He is well known for being the only person who reached the North Pole and South Pole in the same year. In 2003 he decided to organize an expedition to both poles with the 15-year old, disabled Jasiek Mela who lost his arm and a leg two years before.
Italian Food inspires me. Funny enough, I gained a love for it by watching Inspector Montalbano, a Sicilian detective series where the main character Salvo cannot solve a crime without having eaten a good meal. I fell in love with Italian food and cook it quite often.
How’d you fund this venture?
We fund Placeknow through private capital, mainly from 3 main investors: Lukasz Sobanski, Konrad Szwedzinski, and Piotr Bolinski.
Got any great bootstrapping tips for the lean startups out there?
If you have a good idea, you need to stick to it. You will meet a lot of detractors who will say it will not work or discourage you. Stick to your guns and it will work out. Be careful with every penny you spend! Advertise yourself, do not hire a big agency!
What would you be doing if you had one year off and $500, 000 to spend (and you couldn’t spend it on your current startup / projects)?
Travel and provide some financial security for my family.
Do you consider yourself a successful entrepreneur right now? If not, what’s it gonna take to make you feel successful?
I am just starting, so I am successful in the sense of the startup coming into existence and taking on employees. I take my days one at a time and measure my success by whether we have met the goals we set out for ourselves at the beginning of the day. In terms of my personal compensation, it is currently non-existent.
Website you couldn’t live without and why?
Eyetv streams live TV to your iPAD, so I can watch on my own when the channel is invariably changed to what my kids want to watch.
iOS or Android?
Number 1 country you’ve always wanted to visit but haven’t yet?
USA, New York. One Day One Day…
What’s the greatest thing about your company/website/idea?
We believe that the greatest aspect of our project is that it is a global project for everyone to enjoy everywhere from the comfort of their home or office.
Where can our readers get a hold of you? Facebook? Twitter? Google+? Personal blog?