Everyone who has ever travelled will know about the package deal. The sight seeing trips where the world and his brother descend to take that obligatory selfie in front of that famous statue. But what about the real heart of that place – that only the locals know about and get to see? Linas Sablovskis saw an obvious gap for locals to act as tour guides in their own cities and give travellers a more tailor-made, intimate experience. We spoke to him to find out the Showaround story.

*Featured photo by Vladimiras Ivanovas (Verslo Žinios)

Tell us a bit more about the Showaround concept

In brief, Showaround allows locals to earn some extra money by showing travellers around their city. In other words, it is a marketplace for private tours with locals who are ready to show you the best their cities have to offer, and then tailor activities to your interests.

We also have a feature called Trips, whereby you can create a trip to your next destination, and receive offers from locals with suggestions for your visit. This is an easier and effortless way of planning your trip as you simply choose which offers you like, however it does limit you to only those offers rather than seeking out someone potentially more suited.

We also have a review system that informs travellers about the experiences of others.

showaround homepage

And where are you based?

The founders are currently based in Malta and Greece, and our team is located in Lithuania.

How long have you been working on this project? At what stage has it reached to date – have you got a number of countries covered already?

We started working on the concept two-years ago, but only recently have we started to see rapid growth. We cover all the major cities in Europe and we also have a presence in other regions; however, Europe is our main market at the moment.

Tell us the story of how this came about – how did you discover this particular gap?

It was my partner who came up with it. According to him, you always feel like a stranger in a new place, unless you have a local friend who can introduce you to the area. So we wanted Showaround to create a bridge between locals and newcomers, and provide them with a platform where they could connect.

Getting to know locals makes you feel welcome wherever you are. They change the way you see the city because when you only stick to overly touristy spots, it’s like you’re only scratching the surface. You don’t really get a chance to see what’s inside – meaning the local people, their stories, their own unique perspective on the city they live in, day-to-day lives, and so much more.

Let’s talk about competition. My observation is that there seems to be a few similar players in the field aiming to leverage the sharing economy in the travel sector, especially with Airbnb launching its ‘Trips’ recently. However Showaround was the only site that captured my attention so quickly because of it’s clear focus and neat user experience design. What do you think is your biggest advantage comparing to other competitors in the marketplace?

For starters, we are not selling tours like our competition does. Unlike standard and packaged tours, Showaround is unique as it involves actual social encounters, and that’s why it’s an excellent way to see a city and even make international friends. Since you can read a local’s profile and talk with them beforehand, you’re guaranteed the chance to meet a like-minded person who shares similar opinions, activities and interests. We also believe that the person you spend your time with is more important than the spots you visit, meaning if you get along well, you’ll be having a great time wherever you go.

When you’re planning a trip with a local, sightseeing becomes more flexible and spontaneous, as opposed to formal tours and overly-planned 24/7 packaged itineraries. With Showaround locals, you can take a turn down any narrow street, or into any cafe or shop that catches your eye, giving you the option to make on-the-spot decisions and enjoy whatever comes your way, safe in the knowledge that you can still be accompanied and shown the best spots.

Last but not least, Showaround has a global scope, whereas most of our competitors are focused on only a few locations, or at least, not as many as we are.

Linas Sablovskis showaround startup

photo by Vladimiras Ivanovas (Verslo Žinios)

How about the funding? Do you have any specific stories here?

At the moment, Showaround is fully self-funded.

Is this your first start-up venture or did you start other businesses before this? If so please tell us more about them and where they are now.

I was involved in quite a few online projects, primarily doing online marketing, but Showaround has by far the biggest potential and at present it is my primary business.

Let’s chat about yourself a bit more. What was your typical childhood/family background like? Do you have any entrepreneurial family member or partners that inspired you?

My father is a successful businessman. When I was young, he founded a record company and printing house, which are both national leaders – that certainly set a good example for me.

What about your academic and/or professional background? Did you start your own business straight after graduating, or did you work somewhere else first?

Straight after graduating from high school, thanks to my mom, I managed to get a job at MTV as the guy who fixes the printer. Later on, I was promoted to the position of media planner, and then after a year I had an offer to join an ad agency to do online advertising. This was the time when I realised that online marketing is my thing. I started doing consulting and working on various online projects, like e-books and online stores.

Tell us about how hobbies outside of Showaround. How do you find balance with stressful day to day work?

I love scuba diving and have started to do free-diving – I also play in chess tournaments.

Can you tell us what is THE most exciting or inspirational moment to date since started this project?  

It’s definitely the moment when I meet locals myself and hear that they love Showaround, and that it has also become a source of income for them – that really inspires me to move forward.

What about the toughest moment? How did you deal with it and what kept you going?

Last year there was a low point when we couldn’t seem to make any money. However, my business partner came up with some brilliant ideas and managed to save the day.

showaround team

Have you made any “bad” decisions or mistakes along the way?

The way I see it, we didn’t make mistakes, but rather realisations and lessons that we weren’t doing the right things soon enough. To sum up, it’s an issue of task prioritisation. So far we haven’t had any major problems – yet.

What is your ambition for Showaround for the next few years?

It’s not a humble one – no goals other than to dominate the travel industry, and reshape the way people travel and explore cities.

And finally what advice would you offer for someone considering their own startup?

One piece of advice? Watch all of these videos.