Crashworks, a new Idealab-backed travel startup, is today coming out of its semi-stealth mode with a fun mobile application called Crash and accompanying website for unique, crowdsourced tourist attractions. The difference between what Crash offers compared with more robust travel guides, is that it’s not focused on recommending hotels, transportation, restaurants or bars – it’s only about the photo-worthy tourist spots in the city you’re visiting.
That means, for example, Crash isn’t going to include a restaurant that has great food, but it would let you know if a restaurant sells the largest donut in the world, explains Crashworks founder Erick Laubach. It will have famous landmarks, film locations (similar to Spott), scenic viewpoints, amazing street art examples, and more. It’s a little bit like Trover or Google’s Field Trip app, perhaps, but with more emphasis on tourism.
Laubach, who has lived in L.A. since the late 90’s, says he got the idea for the application after becoming a little bit bored with things to do around town. “I constantly saw all these tour buses go by, where people were throwing down forty or fifty dollars a pop, and I thought there’s got to be a better way to find these tourist attractions,” he says. “I wasn’t able to find anything that I was really excited about downloading or being a part of, so I thought maybe I could build this thing.”
So he quit his product management job at Santa Monica-based ThisNext, and proceeded to do exactly that.
Starting with L.A., Laubach began taking some twenty to twenty-five photos per day of the best attractions the city had to offer, and around the time when he had 500 photos on hand, he was introduced to Idealab’s Bill Gross. Laubach pitched the concept for the app, and Idealab offered him a small amount of funding ($150K) as well as resources to get what’s now called Crash off the ground.
Today, the app offers around 2,000 attractions and 6,000 photos in five regions, including L.A., San Diego, San Francisco, Hawaii, and Austin – the latter just in time for SXSW. Laubach says it takes around two to three weeks to get a city seeded with enough content to “launch” there, and he expects to be in 20 or 25 U.S. cities within the next 6 to 8 months. To get these cities going, he uses a remote workforce (sometimes TaskRabbit) to take the initial photos, and then user-generated content comes in to fill in the rest.
But unlike Foursquare, not all user-submitted photos are used in the Crash app – the photos chosen to represent the attracted are editorially selected instead, and the users are credited. In addition to the mobile app, which lets you favorite spots, create lists, comment, and checkin and share to Facebook and Twitter, Crash has an accompanying website where you can also browse and interact with the content. There’s a social element too, allowing you to follow others in a Twitter-like fashion.
For now, the app is free, and Laubach says he will consider in-app purchases as a possible monetization strategy in the future, or maybe other advertising and partnership strategies for the Crash website (think booking modules, sponsorships, lead gen, or traditional ads). But all of that is still up in the air.
“If we can’t build a product that people are excited about using, none of that matters,” he says. The goal now that the app is launched is to start taking in user feedback to see where thing should go next, Laubach explains.
Crash is a free download here in iTunes.
Idealab is also going in on the forthcoming seed round for Crashworks, along with other angels and seed funds. The round is in the ballpark of $1 million, and has yet to close.