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Visitors seeking insider tips on food, entertainment and activities can text their query to local Knowers app and get an answer – and maybe a new friend.

Coming to Israel for the Eurovision in May? Or planning a trip any other time?

If you don’t have friends or relatives to give you tips on what to do and where to go, the location-based digital platform Knowers will connect you with local Israelis, for free.

On your computer or smartphone, you can use Knowers to text a question to a curated community of 1,000 Israeli volunteers ready to answer right away.

Questions can be typed in any language although English is the main language for onboarding the app and for asking and answering queries.

“Instead of Googling everything that comes to mind and then browsing through all the results, you can now connect to a local city influencer who can recommend a trendy vegan restaurant or make sure your cab driver isn’t ripping you off,” says Knowers marketing director Shirley Shahar.

Since the app’s launch in 2017, Knowers community managers have signed up people across Israel ready to offer advice in specific travel categories such as nightlife, nature, food, business, culture, LGBTQ, sports, attractions, tickets, luxury, transport, music, family and even about the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv.

“Our idea is to make a first connection between tourists and locals on the app,” says Shahar. “Getting a good answer to your question in one or two minutes gives a real ‘wow’ effect for the traveler.”

What’s the best place to eat?

The most common request of Knowers is the inside scoop on local cuisine.
“Food is one of the major things people ask about, and they’re very specific about what they want,” says Shahar. “On recommendation apps like TripAdvisor, you can see a list of the best restaurants in a city, but Knowers can tell you, for example, where to find the best burekas in Carmel Market. We also get a lot of questions about vegan restaurants in Tel Aviv because it’s the capital of vegan cuisine.”

Photography is another frequent topic among Knowers users seeking the most picturesque spots so they can share great vacation shots on social media.

“We had a couple who came from the US and asked about romantic locations for their honeymoon,” Shahar relates. “A Knower who is a photographer told them where to go and they ended up hiring him to accompany them and take pictures.”

If tourists choose to meet Knowers, says Shahar, they have to exercise good judgment just as they would when meeting someone they got acquainted with on any social-media site. The company does not take responsibility for users’ personal security in those situations.

However, Knowers does automatically monitor messages for inappropriate words or questions; the texter can be blocked or the message can be blurred.

Building a business model

Shahar cofounded Knowers in 2017 with Laurence Newman and Oded Funt. It’s based in the Kfar Saba offices of GKI Group, its main investor. Working with the team are interns — MBA students from abroad studying at the Novus Center of Entrepreneurship at the College of Management Studies in Rishon LeZion, where Shahar is a mentor.

Knowers has raised $250,000 and a €15,000 startup competition prize from booking.com in 2018, notes Shahar.

Another planned source of revenue is an experiences marketplace that will be added to the app separate from the texting function. This would be done in partnership with local service providers in categories such as food, photography and extreme sports.

A user may ask a Knower to recommend a behind-the-scenes experience at a Tel Aviv restaurant, a photo tour of the Machane Yehuda Market or where to go parasailing in Herzliya.

“We monitor that question and after the Knower gives the recommendation we can ask the user if he or she wants to book that experience through us, and we would take a transaction fee,” Newman says. “We plan to start implementing that in Q3 2019.”

So far, most of the app’s users are American, plus some from Europe and even a few from India.

“We put a lot of effort into finding a good variety of Knowers scattered across Israel, and now we are looking for new destinations,” says Newman.

The app is available for now only in Android; an iOS version is on the way.

About the Author:

Abigail Klein Leichman is a writer and associate editor at ISRAEL21c. Prior to moving to Israel in 2007, she was a specialty writer and copy editor at a major daily newspaper in New Jersey and has freelanced for a variety of newspapers and periodicals since 1984.

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