Sunday, nine in the morning. The sun is shining, the children have been awake for two hours, and the coffee’s gone cold again: time for a trip with the family. But what happens when you live in the city, no one has a car and the prospect of the nearest playground doesn’t make anyone want to go out the door?
Hermann Weiß also wondered all of this. The 44-year-old comes from Bavaria, specifically from the Upper Palatinate. From a Berliner’s perspective he’s from the countryside. Since he moved to Berlin for work, he wanted to know how to leave his home in Wedding and get out to nature – without a car, because he doesn’t have one. “I was searching the internet for paddle rentals, which wasn’t easy to find,” says Weiß. The search was long and tedious. Coincidentally his friend knew a rental place. “I thought that there should be tips like these online,” says Weiß. So, in July 2014, he founded NaturTrip GmbH with project manager Judith Kammerer.
On their website Naturtrip.org you can find destinations that are easily reached by public transport, bicycle or on foot. Users can upload tips independently and leave them there so others will benefit from their knowledge. The principle is simple: you put the location, date and time, and select one of nine categories. This tells you what you might want to do. Bathing in the lake? Hiking? Climbing? Feeding horses? Playing with pigs? Relaxing in a hot tub? Everything is possible.
You can also select how much time you want to spend to get there: 30, 60 or 90 minutes. Then you get a city map with all destinations that are possible – and further information, photos and reviews of the excursion locations. Also available on the site is information on how to get there by public transport.
Hermann Weiß has worked on the project for seven years. Today the company has five employees. Some associations are among its partners, such as the VBB, the BUND and the DAV Berlin. “We are allowed to use their logo and they link to us,” says Weiß. The two founders put 20,000 Euro of equity to start their business.There was also a low six-figure sum from the National Climate Initiative of the Federal Ministry of the Environment – but the exact number he doesn’t tell. One thing is clear: The startup received an additional 25,000 Euros from DB Accelerator Mindbox. In addition, the German Railway Team rent them free office space in the S-Bahn arches of Jannowitzbrücke.
Feeding horses? Playing with pigs? Relaxing in a hot tub? Everything is possible.
Here Weiß sits on a beer bench outdoors, smoking hand-rolled cigarettes, overlooking the Spree. On the laptop in front of him is the website, recently relaunched. The beta version has been recently fully updated. Around 1,500 attractions are already showing and in the future there will be many more.
In Germany only the Verkehrsverbund Berlin-Brandenburg has released the data of the train schedule for developers. The software of Naturtrip.org take the data to determine the fastest route to a destination. But Weiß has other regions in mind, too. “The state of Lower Saxony, the Ruhr and Saxon Switzerland are interested,” he says. And the medium could also expand into Switzerland, the Netherlands and Scandinavian countries. There data on local transport is already publicly available.
“By the end of the year our financing will be gone” says Weiß. Then he wants to work with a freemium model. That is: For the excursion seekers, the portal will remain free. But tourism providers such as hotels, boat rentals and theme parks can pay for better placement or additional advertising space. “We want to reach the mainstream,” says the founder. That’s why, in addition to small providers they list tourist attractions, which interest many people. However Weiß makes exceptions: “Brothels or tank driving courses will not be on the site”. To check which offers are put on the site, he wants to set up his own small editorial team.
We now know where the entrepreneur would like to go for a swim. “The beach on Caputh Schwielowsee looks great,” he says. He has never been there, but he’s seen a picture. There are umbrellas made of bamboo. “As in the South Pacific,” he says.
This article was originally published on Gründerszene.