News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

German-Australian startup Trailburning wants to help brands engage audiences by showcasing location-based experiences

People have always loved sharing and talking about experiences with others, whether it be taking a friend to a cool little café or giving a colleague a list of things they can’t miss when they go on holidays to a favourite spot you visited years before. We love to share, and technology is coming up with cool ways to help us do it in ways tailored to particular interests.

German-Australian platform Trailburning, is one such piece of technology. Founded by Matt Allbeury in Berlin and Justin Wilden in Australia, the platform is aimed at inspiring people to discover, explore, and share location experiences based around running and hiking trails. Similar to fellow Australian startup SnowExplore, which is focused on mapping snowboarding or skiing trails, a user looking for a trail can hop onto the platform and look at either a plain map view or experience the trail with the person who went on it through content like photographs and video, helping them visualise what the run, walk, or climb really looks like.

The idea came from Allbeury’s experiences as a trail runner and his frustration over the fact that he couldn’t find a compelling website through which he could discover new trails.

“He also noticed that sites were all using the same Google map API service, and knew that runners needed a better way to visualise the trail. He pitched the idea to me, and over a few months we realised that there was an opportunity to build a technology that would allow the crowdsourcing of outdoor activities, such as running trails, and that the underlying mapping technology would become a powerful geolocation platform,” Wilden said.

And so Allbeury and Wilden, who had worked together before, decided to create Trailburning. First launched in 2013, Trailburning has built up a base of 1000 dedicated users who have created almost 300 trail maps around the world.

Now Allbeury and Wilden have turned to monetisation, and have created a new product, Journey, which allows clients to combine branded content with maps to create and showcase location-based experiences on any digital platform through an API.

“The Journey platform provides a way to transform events and content at specific locations into an engaging, branded story. A branded ‘journey’ can be a road trip, retail tour, art trail, ski trail or running route that presents content as a mapped experience,” Wilden said.

Trailburning’s target market would primarily be the tourism industry, where businesses are looking for any edge and distinction in a competitive market. However, the startup’s first client is 25zero, an initiative launched by polar explorer and environmental scientist Tim Jarvis. Just 25 mountains on the equator still have a glacier, and these are expected to disappear within 25 years; Jarvis was looking to highlight the effects of climate change by climbing a handful of these mountains, capturing content along the way to push out to the climate change conference held in Paris last week.

Wilden said, “I met up with Tim in Melbourne, and discussed his plans and ideas. At that point, we said “we’re in,” not really knowing what the future held. Tim, as some media outlets rightly state, is a real James Bond archetype. So, at one level, who doesn’t want to build a project for a world adventurer, and at the next level he was going to climb 5000m mountains and needed a way to present this content to his audience.”

The development of the platform was funded through grants and angel investment, though Wilden said it hasn’t been smooth sailing.

“Not many people wanted to back a geolocation concept; this was around the time of the foursquare demise. But if you study the mapping industry there are so many aspects to it, beyond just location ‘check-ins’. Our angel funding has come from an English backer who runs marathons and could see the value of the original idea. Moreover, the backing was conducted through the British Seed Investment Fund, which is the exact model that Malcolm Turnbull’s ideas boom is based on,” he said.

Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing for another very obvious reason – it’s hard enough to work side by side with your cofounder in a coworking space, let alone from the opposite side of the world.

“When Matt is walking through the office door at 8 in the morning in Berlin I’m finishing dinner and would start Skyping at 7:30pm. We have been developing the software for over a year, so that’s been more than 100 Skypes and Google Hangout sessions. We joke that our next software will be a remote collaboration video software, because we know all the pain points of Skype and Google Hangouts,” Wilden said.

With the first client under their belt, the pair are now keen to keep building the business through revenue rather than ongoing investment.

Wilden said, “Our goal is to partner with a couple of global brands to power the website, such as a sporting brand and a car company, because you need a way to get to your destination, it’s about the Journey.”

Image: Trailburning cofounder Matt Allbeury. Source: Provided.

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