We first covered Vayable when it launched to the public just over a year ago as a way to find interesting new travel experiences around the world. It’s been growing fast since then, adding new guides at a frantic pace. And it’s also been adding new features to make finding and booking unique experiences even easier, and paying for them a lot less painless.
Vayable’s business is all about connecting users with local guides, who can provide unique tours or services in remote places. So you don’t have to take the same expensive tour from the big touring company that everyone else in a remote city joins. You get a more personal, and most likely cheaper, experience than you would otherwise. Think Airbnb for unique experiences around the world.
The startup allows guides to sign up, and then puts them through a screening process before posting their experiences to the site. That includes an interview, either by Skype or in person, a reference check and evaluation based on peer reviews. It then sets up some inaugural tours at a discounted rate with users to ensure quality. Once a guide has been accepted, he or she is also rated by users based on their experiences.
Vayable has just three full-time employees today, but it has managed to get about 3,000 experiences available in more than 600 cities worldwide in its marketplace. (Compare that to last April, when it had just 70 experiences listed.) In San Francisco, it just added the ability to rent out Alcatraz for the night (COOL!) and it will also play host to a Startup Crawl on September 15, which will hit up the offices of popular local startups such as Airbnb, Dropbox, Eventbrite, Weebly, and Scribd. Vayable recently joined Y Combinator, and is part of the incubator program’s summer 2012 class.
While Vayable has been adding a ton of new experience, where it’s really growing is in usage and revenue, thanks in part to a new feature, called Concierge, in which users can request a certain experience that isn’t listed on the site and designate a maximum amount that they’re willing to pay for it. Vayable will then try to hunt down someone who can fulfill it (and also try to add them to the marketplace for future users).
Another big new feature is the addition of international payments, which eases the pain associated with paying for these types of experiences in local currency, haggling with merchants, and the like. Payments work like this: A user can pay on the system to book an experience, and then the payment is held until 24 hours after it was supposed to take place. If, for whatever reason, the experience doesn’t happen, the guide doesn’t get paid and the user gets his or her money back, giving users an extra sense of security. Vayable accepts credit cards or PayPal from anywhere in the world, and it can pay its guides in more than 35 different local currencies around the world through direct transfer.
We’ll no doubt learn more at Y Combinator Demo Day in August, when Vayable joins dozens of other startups from the class to show off their goods in an effort to attract investment from various VCs. In the meantime, check out Vayable for yourself the next time you take a vacation somewhere exotic or have family visting town and want to give them a unique tour through the Tenderloin.