Woody Sears has lengthy been involved in storytelling. Following the debut in 2007 of the primary iPhone, he based a storytelling app referred to as Zuuka that constructed up a library of narrated and illustrated youngsters’ books for the iPhone and iPad.
Sears later sold that firm to a small New York-based outfit. However Sears, who is predicated in Santa Barbara, California, isn’t performed with tales but. As an alternative, he simply raised $1.6 million in seed funding for his second and latest storytelling startup, HearHere, a subscription-based audio road-trip app that, with customers’ permission, pushes info to them as they’re driving, giving them informational tidbits in three- to five-minute segments about their environment, together with factors of curiosity they may not have been conscious of in any respect.
The thought is to floor the unknown or forgotten historical past of areas, which is smart in a world the place more people have returned to highway journeys and oldsters have grown determined to drag their youngsters’ consideration away from TikTok. The truth is, Sears’s neighbor, Kevin Costner, favored the thought a lot that he lately joined its five-person group as a co-founder and narrator and investor, together with Snap Inc., the regulation agency Cooley, Tenting World CEO and reality TV star Marcus Lemonis, AAA and quite a few different particular person buyers, together with from NextGen Enterprise Companions.
As a result of we, too, like historical past and highway journeys (and okay, positive, Kevin Costner), we talked with Sears and Costner earlier at this time to be taught why they suppose they’ll succeed with HearHere when different content-rich geo-location based mostly apps have fallen in need of significant adoption.
Excerpts from that chat observe, edited flippantly for size.
TC: You’re creating an audio map of the U.S., so what number of tales do you could have banked as we converse?
WS: We’re as much as 5,500 tales throughout 22 states, and we’ll be nationwide by summer season. The mission is to attach individuals to the locations that they’re touring via, lending individuals tales in regards to the historical past, the pure wonders and the colourful characters who’ve lived in that space. We additionally do tales about sports activities and music and supply native insights.
TC: That’s quite a lot of content material to collect up, edit down, then document. What does the method appear to be?
WS: On the finish of the day, the content material is king, and we take nice care with these tales, producing them with a group of twenty-two researchers, writers, editors and narrators, most whom come from a journey journalism background. We actually really feel like we get one of the best finish consequence via that group strategy.
Finally, we’ll divulge heart’s contents to third-party content material contributors, the place we’re internet hosting each skilled content material and likewise user-generated content material.
TC: Is there an AI element or will there be?
WS: We extra see this as augmented actuality in that these tales actually do overlay the panorama and offer you a distinct perspective whereas touring. However AI and machine studying are issues that we’ll incorporate as we begin to transfer into overseas languages and higher tailor the content material for the tip person.
TC: How do you prioritize which tales to inform as you’re build up this content material library?
WS: The most important historic markers are a giant inspiration, however we’re on the lookout for these lesser-known gems, too, and we take a look at journey patterns — the best way that individuals transfer after they’re on leisure journeys, that means what interstate highways they’re taking and which scenic routes are hottest.
TC: How does the subscription piece work?
WS: You get 5 free free tales every month; for limitless streaming, it’s $35.99 per yr.
TC: Kevin, you have to be approached loads with startup concepts and funding alternatives. Why get so concerned with this one?
KC: Clearly I’m story-oriented; that doesn’t come as a shock to anyone. However you’re proper, quite a lot of concepts come to me.
HearHere got here via my spouse, who stated that Woody had one thing he needed to speak about, and as she defined it to me, I obtained it, ? That’s the shiny factor for me, storytelling and being able for a superb story to return out, particularly with regards to our nation.
So we had this assembly and he defined the idea to me, which is form of equal to what I’d already been doing my entire life, which is stopping on the bronze plaques all around the nation and studying about their historic significance — these [moments] that form of interrupt all people’s journey besides mine. [Laughs.] You recognize, [it’s] getting out and stretching my legs and studying a bit historical past and dreaming whereas the remainder of the individuals within the automobile are form of moaning as a result of we stopped our progress.
This [product] is an extension of that for me, with out getting out of the automobile, and with tales that may evolve and maybe get longer. And I can turn out to be extra concerned in what I used to be driving previous and the individuals within the automobile can perhaps sense what it was that me sufficient to cease.
TC: You’re keen on historical past.
KC: HearHere is much more than historical past, however for me, it was the historical past [that I found so compelling]. And it’s how the inspiration was set for me to turn out to be extra concerned within the firm and perceive it loads higher after which turn out to be someone who needed to be part of the founding of it.
TC: AAA and Tenting World are among the many firm’s strategic buyers. How may they promote the app and what different partnerships have you ever struck to get HearHere in entrance of individuals on the proper time?
WS: Tenting World additionally owns Good Sam Membership, which is the biggest group of RV homeowners on this planet, and AAA is a big with 57 million members within the U.S., and so they all see this as a method to fulfill one thing they’re aren’t presently doing for his or her viewers; it’s making that bridge to digital, and we’re actually excited to get this in entrance of their members and prospects.
We even have partnerships with [the RV marketplaces] Outdoorsy and RVshare [and the RV rental and sales company] Cruise America. It’s a extremely popular market.
TC: There have been comparable concepts. Caterina Pretend’s Findery was an early app that aimed to assist customers uncover way more about places. Detour, a startup that offered strolling audio excursions of cities that was based by Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason, appeared attention-grabbing however didn’t take off with customers. What makes you suppose this startup will click on?
WS: I cherished Detour. I ate up each of these.
I assume the place I feel [Detour] missed product-market match was the variety of eventualities the place you possibly can use it and likewise, it was competing for individuals’s time. We selected to start out with highway journeys as a result of you could have a captive viewers; there’s solely a lot you are able to do whenever you’re driving within the automobile, not like whenever you’re in a metropolis, the place there are all types of choices to discover its historical past, together with bodily books and tour guides. You additionally needed to carve out two hours of your time, and it’s simple to get distracted when you’re strolling round.
We wish to seize the locations which are alongside the journey and lesser identified and extra untold and the place individuals have the area to have interaction in it. Beginning as quick type helps. It’s additionally on-demand, so that you don’t must observe a pre-designated route. We’re not taking you on a selected tour, the place it’s important to flip left or flip proper. We’re going to floor tales for you it doesn’t matter what route you are taking.