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Startup Stories: Daniel Wasilewsky, Founder of FreeGuides

We had a great chat with FreeGuides founder & CEO, Daniel Wasilewsky, about led him to launching a tourism start-up during a global pandemic.

by hao-nguyen on October 28, 2021

Daniel Wasilewsky is the founder of FreeGuides, a peer-to-peer platform that empowers travellers around the world to create, explore and share.

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Hi Daniel, great to have you here with us today. We recently chatted about your work-life balance, but it would be great to talk more about your company for this interview. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little about FreeGuides and what led you to starting it?

Thank you so much for having me. I started FreeGuides in 2019 because I love to travel.  Anytime I possibly could go overseas and explore I would do it. The first thing I would do is look up free walking tours on Google. You meet someone in a certain location where they walk you through the city and at the end you choose how much you want to pay.

I fell in love with the idea of being taken on an adventure by a real local. Even more so is the concept of who is even qualified to make these experiences. I was inspired to create FreeGuides, a platform that allows anyone to create, manage and monetize their own self guided experiences.

I love that idea! It’s certainly ambitious. What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve run into while building FreeGuides?

One of the biggest challenges that I faced while creating FeeGuides was running a tourism start-up during a global pandemic. When we first started, FreeGuides was designed for guided experiences, where users would meet locals and they would take you on experience. After COVID struck we realised that we would need to pivot and change to be self-guided experiences.

It seems like the pivot was the right move because you recently celebrated your global launch. Can you tell us how you went orchestrating that from your home during lockdown?

We did recently launch internationally, the timeline is a bit confusing but I’ll try to explain. In November 2020 we launched in Sydney then in January 2021 we expanded into the whole of Australia. Then we launched in New Zealand in April 2021 then we decided in September that we needed to actually grow and take advantage of the opening of tourism sectors in the rest of the world.

The initial plan was to perfect the product in Australia as we were open and ready for business but then as we were plunged into lockdown the plan to grow internationally was expedited extremely quickly. In September 2021 we grew our operations globally, meaning anyone, anywhere, can create and join experiences. We have seen tremendous growth for both guides and explorers and look for more growth in the future.

How has the uptake been overseas since your launch?

The uptake has been really fantastic now that we are international as we operate in cities with no travel restrictions. We are using a lot of excitement from both explorers and guides. From the short time so far we have secured experiences in Portugal, the USA, Italy and Spain.

Earlier in the year, you also closed your seed funding round, do you have any tips for other startup founders who are looking to raise in the future?

The most important factor is to build your communications and your connections with investors over a long period of time. Typically investors only invest after the third communication/meeting. It’s vital to build relationships early so that they are aware of what the company is doing, and what your goals are. This means when you actually ask them for money they already are involved and committed to the story. Additionally, the best way to secure investors is through introductions, a warm introduction is always better than a cold email.

Switching gears now to your role as the founder & CEO of FreeGuides. What would you say is your favourite thing about running a start-up and what’s the thing you least like about it? 

My favourite thing about running a start-up is the excitement you encounter every single day. I’ve worked for other businesses in the past and it’s never the same as starting it yourself. When it’s your own start-up you wake up every single morning and see how customers are using your product and actually see users get value. Additionally, what I love is the people I get to interact with having and building a team. What I like least is dealing with the unknown, every decision has assumptions and it’s very difficult to know if you’re making the right or wrong decisions.

As a follow-up to that question, when you’re hiring new people for the team, what are some of the skills or traits that stand out to you? 

When hiring for FeeGuides the number one trait we look for is passion. Having experience and expertise in the field that we’re hiring you for is important but if you’re not passionate and excited every single time you come to work we aren’t the right place for you. Additionally, our team needs to be unique, have interests and passions outside of work because, by definition, we are an experience company so we want people to be looking for experiences in everything they do.

One last question before you let you get back to it. What are your plans for FreeGuides for 2022 and beyond?

The plan for FreeGuides going forward is trying to get as many experiences as possible in every country around the world. This will mean regardless of who you are, a 40-year-old mother with two children or an 18-year-old boy living in Spain when you open FreeGuides you see experiences that are catered for you, specifically match your interests, needs and wants. This can only be achieved by enabling guides and encouraging them to create unique and special experiences. Further, we plan to bulk out our commercial offering, making it so that companies can start utilising FreeGuides to connect to their existing and future customers on a deeper level.

Great, thank you so much for your time Daniel. It was nice chatting to you and a big congratulations to all your recent wins. We’ll definitely be keeping a close eye on FreeGuides!

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