Back in November last year, Hackathon #SVtoPP, the first event to connect Silicon Valley and Phnom Penh was held. Attracting participants all below the age of 30, each team embarked on an intense 2 day journey to develop a platform to solve a real world problem.
For Sokna Ly, a personal experience inspired his idea for the application. When he was in Bangkok for a holiday, he realised that he did not know where to go or which platforms could provide him with a reliable tour guide. His friends told him about a similar experience they had when they were in Cambodia.
This inspired the creation of GuideInsider – an app to link tourists with trustworthy and quality tour guides. Sokna went ahead to assemble a 5-man team, each bringing their expertise in various fields like app development and tourism, to enter the Hackathon to build the application.
Eventually, the team were crowned as champions of the Hackathon and were invited back as mentors for next years’ edition of the event.
To find out more about their project, their plans in 2017 and what advice they would give as mentors, we sat down with the GuideInsider (GI) team.
The following interview has been edited for clarity, flow and language
Could you walk us through the application and its key features?
GI: The current key feature of the app is giving users the ability to book tour guides. We were able to build up this network by gathering reports from the tourism ministry which gave us access to thousands of tour guides throughout Cambodia.
Moving forward though, we’ll be looking to add new features to make the app look a little more impressive. These features include creating a tour package on the app and allowing tour companies to sell their packages through the app.
How do you plan to release the app on the market?
GI: Right now, we’re in the midst of re-developing the app from scratch because during the Hackathon, we were very rushed given the time constraints and a lot of functions were not as perfect as we would like them to be. As such, we’re now working on developing a better user interface design and tweaking the code to ensure it runs smoothly.
When the app is ready, hopefully before the Khmer New Year, we’ll release it to the market on both iOS and Android platforms. Then, we will execute a marketing plan to give our app exposure. This will include promotions around the Khmer New Year period and a trip up to Siem Reap to promote our application to the tourists there.
Aside from booking tour guides, are you thinking of adding any more features to the app in the future?
GI: When the app is more stable on the market, we’ll definitely be looking to add in an accommodation booking feature as well as transportation booking. But that’s a plan for the year, or maybe two years ahead, if the app grows in the market as we hope it does.
We are considering allowing freelance tour guides to sign up as well but we’ll need to navigate the security concerns that could come with that if we want to include that in the app.
What impact do you hope the app will have on Cambodia?
GI: After the app is released, we hope that it has a really big impact in the tourism field because right now, the tour guide can only get the tourists from the tour agency or the hotel.
When the app is launched, they no longer need that middle man. They simply need to logon to the app, register and get clients from there.
In terms of the big picture, we think that the app will increase the profile of Cambodia as a country for tourism because it makes it easier for tourist to find what they need. As a result of that, we hope that it can help attract more tourists to the Kingdom and in turn, improve Cambodia’s economy.
Let’s talk about the Hackathon. What was it like to win it?
GI: It was great. We put a lot of effort into developing the app and we’re really happy that at the end of the day, we were able to win. After all, we’ve always felt that we were building something amazing.
It was also inspiring for all of us because we were able to come together as a team and see what we were capable of producing!
What’s more, we were also competing with a lot of great teams and great ideas so we weren’t very confident that we were going to win. In spite of that, we kept reminding ourselves to keep our eyes on the prize. So I guess, at the end of the day, we were really excited to win! We were all jumping when our name was announced!
You’ll be going back to Hackathon next year as mentors, what advice would you give to the participants?
GI: There are 5 of us here so we’ll give 5 pieces of advice.
- Never give up. If you love what you are doing, keep doing it.
- Speak up! Share your ideas because you’ll never know if it works until someone hears it.
- Never be afraid of what your idea is. Don’t be afraid of failure. If you do fail, take it as an experience to improve your idea.
- Adapt your idea to the people. Know what your end users will need and build your app in that way.
- Produce your idea. Whatever it is, make sure you come up with something!
Great advice from the GuideInsider team. For us at Geeks in Cambodia, we cannot wait for the app to be released and to catch up with the GuideInsider team at this years’ Hackathon!