Launching today, a new app called OfftheGrid aims to bring a Tinder-like experience to the travel market, by having its users swipe and chat with like-minded travelers while also discovering unique places to visit. The app gives users a way to share photos and videos of their travels, post about an upcoming trip, arrange meetups with others and learn about new travel destinations.
What’s most notable is the Tinder-like feature in the “Discover” tab that allows users to vote on photos from people around the world by swiping left or right, much like you do on matches.
After catching the travel bug, 25-year-old Ethan Serbantes founded the startup to create a niche social platform where travelers could make connections and easily find new experiences.
Social media has transformed how we travel, and millennials and Gen Zers consumed by wanderlust often go to Instagram for inspiration. Travel company Arrivia surveyed over 2,000 Americans between December 2021 and January 2022 and found that 60% of Gen Zers and 40% of millennials use social media for vacation ideas, for instance.
However, browsing the internet for destinations can be time consuming, the founder noted. While Instagram was where everyone was sharing vacation spots, Serbantes said the locations he scrolled through on the platform didn’t have enough information for people who actually wanted to travel there. It also doesn’t help that you have to scroll past selfies and other posts that have nothing to do with the area.
Based on his own traveling experience, Serbantes also realized that it can be hard to meet new people as a solo traveler. Travel booking platform Klook found that 49% of respondents were nervous about traveling solo because they didn’t want to be lonely in a foreign place.
With a team of six other people, Serbantes designed OfftheGrid to “address the fragmented travel planning process and solo traveler problems,” Serbantes told TechCrunch.
OfftheGrid aims to be a platform for travelers to connect with each other and share their experiences. Users can post their photos and videos on the main homepage of the app and see posts from travelers they follow.
Travello, another social network app designed for travelers, works similarly. However, OfftheGrid has a swiping feature where users swipe left or right on a person’s post, whether that’s a photo of a beach, mountain or maybe a nice park. Users can like, comment and favorite a photo to look at later by using the bookmark icon.
But there’s a catch: Once a user sees a photo of a place they’re interested in, they need to have 10 in-app coins to reveal the information. For every swipe, they gain one coin. Once unlocked, there will be a description and a map where you can see where in the world the destination is.
There are also options to watch a video ad to earn the coins for free or buy coins. Users can pay $0.99 for 100 coins, $1.99 for 300 coins and $4.99 for 600 coins.
The app’s “Trips” tab, meanwhile, allows users to meet up with other travelers. People post where they’re traveling and how long they’ll be there, then others connect with them to offer any advice or arrange to meet. There’s a limit on how many people you can message per day. After chatting with three individuals, the traveler has to again use coins to chat with additional people.
Of course, it’s important that travelers stay safe when going to foreign places. While it can be fun to socialize with new people, you also need to be wary of meeting up with strangers.
“Safety is a main priority of ours,” Serbantes said.
For starters, the app permits users to verify their email, phone number and Facebook account. At launch, OfftheGrid doesn’t have a system that verifies profile photos, but Serbantes said the startup is working on implementing a photo identification API. OfftheGrid also plans on launching a blue checkmark system for verified profiles.
However, as dating apps have shown, what users really need are background checks — which is why Match Group began integrating the option this year into its apps, like Tinder, after horror stories of violence, stalking and assault began to emerge from its users. OfftheGrid does not include such a feature, so travelers will need to be careful of who they chat with and choose to meet.
OfftheGrid also has a “Explore” tab — a discovery tool for interacting with a map that has the most liked and trending content on the app. There’s a search option if users want to jump to a specific location and filters such as “Wildlife,” “Parks/Trails,” “Shopping,” “Museums/Galleries” and “Food.”
OfftheGrid is a bootstrapped startup, which means the company is self-funded and doesn’t rely on investors and external sources.
Serbantes said the company has a lot of plans for the app down the road. This includes a subscription model that allows subscribers to unlock photos and connect with as many people as they want. An organizational feature is in the works as well, which lets users plan an itinerary based on photos they’ve liked on the app.
Another feature rolling out to the app is a “Locals” section within the “Trips” tab for users to find people within the area to reach out to.
Serbantes mentioned that, in the future, OfftheGrid would be hosting monthly photo competitions. The photos with the most likes are accurately geotagged will win. The details of what the prizes are have yet to be decided.