Having travelled to Bogota several times, it always dismays me when a Google video search of the city lands VICE’s “Sewers of Bogota” as a top three result. Here a naïve, unilingual American looks for poor people living in the sewers. Rather than promote initiatives in Bogota that combat poverty and living, the shock-value content exploits a social problem.
Upon searching the same keyword in Urbita’s new spin-off site Travel Videos, I didn’t find this video, but rather interesting and thoughtful pieces on the city that paint an accurate picture. Travel Videos cultivates meaningful and unique travel content for cities and towns all over the world, offering urban explorers valuable content.
Urbita cofounders Pablo Kleinman and Pablo Grandinetti graduated from FounderFuel’s third cohort in 2012, raising a total of $650,000 in funding from Real Ventures and several angel investors.
The startup, now based in Buenos Aires and Los Angeles, invites users who are passionate about their city to create “boards” and share content through videos, photos, maps and local recommendations. Users show what they love about their cities and towns in a “highly visual, beautifully organized, contextually-aware and hyper-social way.”
The idea for the spinoff site, Travel Videos, is part of a larger vision to offer a network of focused sites for users of Urbrita.
At first Kleinman and Grandinetti were toying with the idea of a transactional marketplace where users could offer peer-to-peer services in their city for other travellers. Urbita pivoted to a less expensive model that aggregates user-generated content, relying on traditional and next-generation ads. Kleinman said they’re now approaching profitability and should hit the mark by September.
An article by Michael Carney led me to this jaw-dropper: Urbita alone is bringing in seven million monthly uniques just five months after pivoting in February. Kleinman said that if one adds Travel Videos to that, it’s over nine million. “In the first four weeks we had a million users with Travel Videos. We’re getting a lot of organic traffic too,” said Kleinman.
When comprehending these numbers remember that the two sites are nothing more than travel content platforms, a perennial graveyard for startups as Carney alluded to. Entering into this crowded space and gaining significant traffic is a hard thing to do. The fact that a big chunk of Urbita’s users are organic makes the story even more interesting.
A strength from the start has been Urbita’s trilingual (and growing) approach. Upon launching it was offered in English, Spanish and Portuguese, allowing a huge Brazilian market to consume the platform. In fact, Kleinman said Urbita has been named one of Brazil’s top five travel-related sites. Not surprisingly, more users from this country are visiting Urbita than any other.
Diego Steverlynck, an Argentinian angel investor who has invested in Urbita, said that marketing to Latin America in the first place was a challenge on its own. When Kleinman and Grandinetti told him they would be pivoting from their original business plan, he “thought they were crazy.”
“The first conversations I had with them over this I said, doing that is really difficult. Doing this in Latin America is even more difficult. But I thought, lets give it a try,” said Steverlynck. “Today they have 9 million active users. I’m amazed at how they did it, how they’re constructing the site and how they’re constructing the traffic. These guys are good.”
Steverlynck told Techvibes that for all he knew, it could have been a bad investment from the start. “Wouldn’t be the first and it wouldn’t have been the last,” he said. Not only were they entering into one of the most competitive segments of the Internet, but they were initially marketing to Latin America, where internet investments are lagging behind North America by a decent margin.
“The opportunity for me wasn’t really that appealing but I found these guys really interesting and I decided to give it a try,” he said.
As a result, said the investor, they’ve created something new, they’re building something smart and they have the numbers to monetize now.
Today the site features contextual information for over 180,000 cities. According to Kleinman they’re currently preparing for a mobile app launch which will serve as an abridged version of Urbita.