Okoli connects you with tour guides around the world

Okoli is a new service by developer Jack Deneut that aims to replace those ugly little cards you find in tourist hotels. The web app, which currently works in Prague, Budapest, Berlin and Paris, lets you reserve a nearly private tour with a professional guide and you’re guaranteed groups of no bigger than eight people. It is live now.

Standard tour groups depend on large numbers of people to remain profitable. By stuffing as many as 35 people into a group you get a crowd of folks led by someone with a crackly microphone system and holding up a big umbrella. Instead of depending on huge numbers of groups, Okoli offers quality tours for $25 a person and does everything from booking to cancellations online. If more people book for a certain day the system automatically adds tour guides to the roster to handle the overflow.

I tried the app in Prague last week and signed up for a 10am walking tour of the Old Town. The guide, a professional who does both private and group tours, took me around to the major sites, including the Jewish Quarter and the Charles Bridge. She had something interesting to say at every stop. Because I could reserve it from my bed I didn’t have to look for anyone with a yellow umbrella at 9am near some random fountain to pay for a voucher that I then handed over to someone else. It basically streamlines the entire process, unlike competitors which are just front ends for fax machines and email interactions.

Deneut is hiring guides for other countries and cities and hopes to expand this summer. He’s bootstrapped the project and it’s currently seeing a few dozen tourists per day. He’s currently raising seed.

While using Okoli isn’t the same as finding one of those weird leaflets in the motel lobby advertising the Museum Dedicated to the World’s Smallest Horse, it sure beats wandering through a city looking for a Ghost Tour at 9pm.