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Loclpal – Community of travellers.

Loclpal is a community of travellers and like-minded locals. Travellers can find locals that share the same interests and chat with them to discover truly unique things to do.

Loclpal – your community of travellers.

Iraklis Alexopoulos ,Founder of Loclpal shares with us his story of how Loclpal was born.
Loclpal is the first, travel-related instantiation of what he calls “P2P Mentoring” model.

Team digs in to know more about his venture; here’s what he had to share:

What was the original source of inspiration for you to start ‘ loclpal ’?

I travel a lot and I rarely have time to plan. I generally find travel planning overwhelming: there’s just too much information and it’s very difficult to cut through the noise. There’s no way to get personalised information, not to mention getting real-time information when you need it. Hence, the need for community of travellers.

I have found myself many times while traveling, looking through numerous tabs on my mobile browser, wishing there was a local I can chat with, to help me out, or a community of travellers that I can rely on. And I realized that I have been that “local” many times for friends and family visiting either Dubai or Athens. Just by chatting with them real-time. And knowing what they like, I was able to guide them in a much more intuitive way and help them explore what matters to them.

I validated my observations with friends and many people in my network and they all seemed to face the same issues I was facing. They were very keen on a solution that would allow them to chat with locals – build the community of travellers. And, loclpal was born!

Tell our readers about the services your offer at ‘loclpal’ and how it works?

Loclpal is a community of travellers and like-minded locals. Travellers can find locals that share the same interests and chat with them to discover truly unique things to do. It’s real-time, personalized and private. Loclpal is available on Android and iOS as well as on the web.

By chatting with our locals, you have access to information that is not available online, and you get immediate answers to your questions. Our knowledgeable locals know all the small details that make a big difference to your trip and experience overall.

Experience a city like a local

You can register on loclpal – it takes less than a minute – and set up your profile: let us know a bit about yourself, your interests, the languages that you speak so that we can recommend like-minded locals to you.

Anyone can apply to become a loclpal. All you need is to be an expert local: you can be an athlete, artist, foodie or a businessman, everyone is welcome! All communication on loclpal is via chat so you can help travelers wherever you are.

Can you share with us a unique experience you had with one of your customers?

Our community never fails to impress us with their creativity and passion. Initially, when we built loclpal, we thought of it as a service for travelers to explore a place. But as it turns out, some of our customers are already residents in a city.

But they are just looking to explore new things to do. So, one of our customers. Even though he’s lived almost his entire life in Dubai – chatted with one of our locals in Dubai. And within just a few messages he discovered a new beach to go with his family and a new restaurant! How’s that for a discovery platform?

What surprises you about leading a start-up in UAE?

I’ve been here long enough, so it shouldn’t surprise me, however, Dubai’s startup community is super active and energizing. There are so many inspiring entrepreneurs and problem solvers. And they are more than happy to reach out or take some time off their busy schedules to get to know their peers and help in any way they can. It’s a very vibrant ecosystem!

You were CTO of ‘souqalmal’. What were the most valuable lessons you learned from your previous start up?

One of the most important lessons I learned, was “keep it simple”, don’t over-engineer things.

Always try and break down a seemingly complex problem (or opportunity) to smaller, easier to process parts. And approach each, in a “clean”, structured way, making sure the solution “makes sense”.

What helped you take your start-up to the broadest audience?

A combination of methodical/educated approach and decisiveness. When building something new, there are so many unknowns.And it’s easy to get paralysis by analysis. Trying to gather as much information and knowledge on a subject. It’s important to have a plan, but it’s also important to put this plan to the test, early enough. And that’s where being decisive is essential. There are moments where you need to try something, even though you might not have all the information. Experimenting – but measuring the results is key to success.

Equally important is to listen to your customers and stakeholders: take the time to talk to them.And make sure you capture their aspirations and concerns.

For a startup to succeed and scale, it needs to address a need or solve a problem that many have.

How is your company different from its competitors?

The way people travel and what they’re looking for when traveling has evolved. Long gone are the days when traveling was about the hotel/resort and just ticking off sightseeing must-sees. Travelling is now more experiential than ever. The community of Travellers are seeking unique, authentic experiences and they want to feel that they are part of the local community.

There are many services that try to address this trend either by generating content or by offering tours with locals. Producing content still leaves travellers with the daunting task of consuming all this content. Cutting through the noise to find what’s relevant to them.

Tours, on the other hand, can be expensive. And they are quite committing. You commit to experiencing with someone else and if the experience doesn’t match your expectations you still have to go through it.

Loclpal allows travellers to experience a city like a local on their own terms. Travellers can ask questions and get answers in real-time from locals that share the same interests and speak the same language. No need to have a guide with them or commit to an expensive experience. It’s the most flexible, convenient way to explore a city. And it’s the personalization and immediacy factor that really differentiates it.

What are the challenges you as an expat entrepreneur in UAE and how to overcome the challenges?

Dubai and the UAE is a super fast moving hub. There are so many things happening and so little time. Time is a scarce resource (for all of us actually, around the world, Dubai just makes this more prominent). So, managing your time is key. It’s all about being efficient, eliminating distractions and being laser-focused on what you want to achieve but also ways to measure your progress.

Share some of your specific sales tactics that helped you to succeed?

Loclpal is a community. But from a business point of view, it is also a marketplace where our expert locals are the supply . And our travellers are the demand. And building a marketplace comes with many challenges. Especially around keeping the grown on both sides in sync and finding the right balance. Also, loclpal is a global concept, we feature more than 150 locals in 90+ cities.

What helped us succeed is being very focused and targeted about how we grow our community. We started with just a few cities, trying to reach out to locals in these cities so that we have critical mass. And we can then validate the concept with our travellers.

Individually we put a lot of effort into our communication across all our marketing efforts, to make sure our message was clear but also aspirational. As this is the identity that we wish our community to carry. We were very genuine and transparent and that’s why we managed to build a community of locals that really see our vision and consider themselves part of our story.

How many in your team right now? What is your work culture like?

We’re still small and we put a lot of emphasis on making sure that we build the right culture. Throughout my years of experience, I’ve learned that the greatest asset an organization has is the team. It’s crucial to get people excited and motivated about what they do.

Tell us a little more about you and your cofounders.

Though I am the only Founder. However, I consider our community of travellers and locals as my Co-Founders in this journey as they have helped me in shaping loclpal into a service that is impactful and useful.

I was born and raised in Athens and I have been in Dubai for over 8 years now. My background is in computer science and I first joined a startup 10 years ago as a software engineer. Since then,

I’m fascinated by the potential and excitement that startups carry. There’s something special about a small group of passionate people, building a service that is set to grow and delight the world.

And I have experienced this a few times, working in companies that grew exponentially, serving customers and hearing their stories. Even though I have spent most of my professional life in the Tech space, I was always drawn to the business side of things. I wanted to understand the customer needs and the business opportunity that comes with it. So, it was only a matter of time until I built my own startup. My mantra is to “solve interesting problems with interesting people”. I always try to surround myself with people that I look up to and that I can learn from.

What have you learned about yourself during your journey as an entrepreneur?

I always knew that I am committed and persistent. But building a business on your own, end-to-end and with minimal help, really puts your persistence to the test.

Iraklis Alexopoulos

There are moments when the work ahead is just overwhelming and the finish line seems to be so far. But if you put the work, you will slowly but surely get there. I realised that I can push myself far more than what I had ever thought. And that I can learn so many new things that were completely unknown to me when I started my journey.

Being an entrepreneur is a lonely, roller coaster ride, but it’s worth it, every second of it. Mainly for the opportunity to build a great product that people love but also for the potential to build a great team that is inspired and motivated.