Introducing Turkish startups: Piri

Piri is a digital tour guide app to solve problems that arises people encountered during their trips

Piri is an audio walking tour app that lets tourists to explore a city with the top level tur guides. Piri identifies your location by using GPS and automatically starts telling stories of your current location. During a tour, you can be sure that you are on the right direction by following the route on the screen. Piri provides its users with an experience of discovering cities around the world as locals, not just like tourists. I had a chance to interview Tülin Yücel Altaş, Co-founder & Managing Partner at Piri, and here’s what she told me.

-What is the story of Piri Guide? How did you decide to launch Piri?

As co-founders, when we were in university, we worked voluntarily in a non-profit organization called YGA (Young Guru Academy). We worked on social innovation projects for 10 years before we established the Piri startup. The idea of a digital tour guide app arose from some problems we encountered in our trips.

For example, researching and planning a trip is a stressful and time-consuming part of traveling and it becomes an overwhelming task when we try to find the accurate information or the best route on the internet gets confusing. If you wish to explore a city with a professional guide, you have to be prepared to make huge payments. On the other hand, if you are willing to travel with a group to reduce the cost, you will eventually realize that the difficulties in finding a good guide or restrictions caused by strict tour schedules reduce the joy of travel significantly. Therefore, we have decided to build a digital tour guide product.

When you travel to a city, Piri digital tours draw the best route for you. It detects your location and automatically starts telling stories narrated by the best guides. During a tour, it navigates you step by step and suggest local restaurants and shops.

Galata Tower at Piri

-What is the business model of Piri Guide?

We have two channels for the business model: Business to Customers and Business to Business.

Travelers can purchase city tours individually or subscribe by in-app purchase method that enables them to reach all collection of tours. Companies give these tours to their employees, customers as a gift or publish their native-ad in Piri tour contents. They include Piri Guide to their loyalty engagement program and marketing activities.

Until today, we worked with many companies like Is Bank (the biggest private bank in :Turkey), Turkcell (the biggest GSM operator in Turkey), Anadolu Sigorta, Enerjisa Üretim, Tofaş, Borusan Enerji, Starbucks etc.

For example, an Istanbul tour can be purchased for 10$ by in-app purchasing whereas Maximum Card users can benefit from this tour without making any payment.

-As far as I can see, you have 14 guides. How do you select your guides? What are the criteria?

We have had the privilege to work with some of the best guides of Turkey and Europe. Expertise is the most important criteria for our premium tours.

On the other hand, we are also an open platform. Content creators, influencers, bloggers and guides can create and sell their own Piri tours. Being a real wanderer is the most important criteria for local-open platform tours.

-I noticed you have 19 cities in the app. Are you planning to add different cities to the guide? How do you choose the cities?

Now, we have more than 3.000 audio content, 150 digital tours in 30 cities, 20 countries. In general, we choose the cities that out target audience visits the most. Of course, sometimes we choose according to the upcoming trends or the demand of a corporate customer.

-What are the most popular tours in Turkey and abroad?

Istanbul tours are the most popular tours in Turkey. We have more than 20 different digital tours in Istanbul, especially Kuzguncuk, Balat and Karakoy tours are highly preferred ones.

The most popular European tours include London, Amsterdam and Budapest. However, I have to say that these popular cities change from time to time.

-I know you have an office in London. What are your plans for your Europe?

We have English tours with local guides including the most visited cities of Europe. We conducted user acquisition tests in our target markets and measured acquisition costs. Accordingly, our leading target markets are United Kingdom and Germany. Currently, 10% of our users come from these markets. In the next phase, we are planning to achieve hyper-growth in these markets.

-As a woman entrepreneur, did you have any difficulties in Turkish startup scene?

To be honest, I did not have any specific difficulties as a woman entrepreneur. But of course I cannot deny that there is still a bias. I know many female entrepreneur friends who have specific difficulties.

It is a very good question and I would like to say that, the role of women has been enthroned in Artemisia culture. In Anatolia, the cult of Artemis had its origin in the cult of Cybele. It shows that “human rights” are the “woman rights”. Thus, well educated, empowered, promoted and enlightened a women is the key for solving all problems of humanity. Today’s women entrepreneurs should be role models, overcome this bias and open the way for more women.

A view from Piri

-Around two years ago you raised your first fund of investment. Are you planning future investments?

We have raised 500K$ from angel investors in Q2 of 2018. Yes, we will open a new round for global expansion.

-That’s all I want to know. If you have anything extra, just add it

I would like to mention about our “why”. The cities that we travel to or live in contain many unknown stories within their buildings, streets or squares. Most of us walk by these treasures without even realising them, or take a quick Instagram picture and move on. Nevertheless, we believe that loving begins with getting to know, and getting to know starts with listening to stories. The buildings, streets and squares of the city, human heritage sites are revived through their stories; they tell all kinds of things to those that listen.

On the other hand, tourism certainly has an impact on many things such as the reefs, forests, ancient sites, mountain tracks. Those who are trying to maximize their short-term profits do not hesitate to consume these resources in the future – in the long term. However, these world heritage sites must be preserved for future generations. In terms of environmental awareness and responsibility, we want to utilize VR technology. Our passion is to promote and preserve the world’s heritage and ensure its sustainability. Feeling such a responsibility, we are developing VR technology to present world to each individual either at home or on site.

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