When a desirable offering meets a growing audience at the intersection of trends and technology you likely have a winning business prospect. When you compliment it with the disruptive forces of the sharing economy and add passion and purpose, you get Daniel Dubois and Guiides.com, likely to do for adventure tourism, what AirBnB did for global accommodations.
Guiides.com, launched earlier this month was created with the goal of increasing access to outdoor adventure. It lets people search for and book activities led by local outdoor enthusiasts or certified guides depending on the risk involved. Offering an alternative to big tours and travel packages, participants are invited to experience a new area like a local. Guiides.com, essentially acting as a portal uniting buyers and sellers, takes 15% of each booking with the balance going to the trip leader. Currently operating in the Vancouver/Sea to Sky corridor, the company plans expand the offering across BC, the Rockies and Calgary during the summer. They have plans to be coast to coast by year-end, and to have taken the concept North America wide by next year.
It all started when Dubois watched a TED Talk by Rachel Botsman on the rise of collaborative consumption. At the time, the concept of the sharing economy, and the idea that “It’s not what you own, but what you have access to” was in its infancy, so Dubois packed his bags and went to meet with the mayor of San Francisco and the founders of AirBNB and Uber to learn more. What he found was a shift in economic thinking that really aligned with his values and purpose. Doors opened up. He subsequently went on to launch ShareShed.com, a website where people could gain access to outdoor gear and equipment based on borrowing from others near by, through an access portal online. While that business venture proved a great testing ground to learn, and is now at the core of MEC’s retail rental offerings, the testing of various trip options as an additional offering to Share Shed helped Dubois realize users were seeking community in the outdoors in addition to the use of gear. Guiides.com was an answer to that bringing together buyers and sellers of authentic outdoor experiences. This concept is infinitely scalable and is right on target with a future we crave that uses the power of technology to connect with humans again.
Dubois has raised over $1 million and has a dream team of investors including Ryan Holms founder of Hootsuite and Mike Walsh a seed investor in Uber. He won the Global Student Entrepreneur Award to represent Canada along side 50 other students from 50 countries in Thailand this summer. He shared the stage with a director of AirBNB and an Apple co-founder while speaking to an audience at Interdome in Banff last summer. In 2015 he spoke to 20,000 youth at WE Day, sharing the stage with Kofi Annan, Romeo Dallaire and Martin Luther King III, about the sharing economy and collaborative consumption. He’s lectured at MIT to a class of entrepreneurs. Last summer he was a G20 delegate to Istanbol, and this summer he will again be joining the G20 Summit in Beijing as part of the Young Entrepreneur Alliance to shape international policy.
Not bad for a guy who still hasn’t graduated from Capilano University. Still five courses short of earning his degree in business, Dubois figures he’ll “graduate someday.” Arguably, he’s learned far more outside the classroom then the balance of those credits will ever merit.
Dubois’ 5 Key insights for aspiring entrepreneurs
1. Follow your passion and purpose. Dubois notes that entrepreneurs that are growing their businesses are the ones that are aligned with their purpose. He suggests making decisions based on your values. Use your values to ask, “What’s my big why for doing this?” If you want to be excited about something that keeps you up late and gets you up in the morning, understand why you are doing what you’re doing.
2. Understand trends & disruptive forces. Big trends viewed from the 30,000-foot level can offer a sweet spot for innovation and disruption. Dubois notes that the sharing economy and the notion that “It’s not what you own, but what you have access to” has disrupted the traditional economic model. It’s the reason why Uber and AirBnb have been so successful. The one-click economy and on-demand economy with real time inventory control are forces that are shifting demand. The sharing economy is part of that bigger overall trend. Security, automation, the mobile internet, effects of demographics and population shifts, disruptive payment and delivery systems are also areas creating opportunity.
3. Storytelling is key. Being able to articulate the story about your business creates an emotional connection and gives people a reason to care. Sharing it verbally and in writing goes a long way to gaining a following, be that investors or customers. While it’s not mandatory, it’s even better if you as the founder are comfortable speaking in front of a crowd. Dubois has learned at a very young age to deliver his story in a relaxed, passionate and charismatic manner which charms all who listen.
4. Make connections and do your research. Very early on Dubois ventured to San Francisco to interview the founders of Uber, AirBnb, Google and others in the hotbed of technology innovation and the sharing economy. It formulated his knowledge of opportunities, but it also allowed him to score a pretty impressive list of connections that later fueled investment in his business.
5. Test the market and make your offering scalable. Dubois talks a lot about market testing both the supply and demand side of guides.com since the offering as an online portal for adventure is at a unique intersection of both sides of the economic model. He stresses the importance of testing the market, making mistakes and doing corrections prior to expanding. Ultimately for a business to be wildly successful it will require scaling. Be sure to have the systems in place to do that.
And what’s with the two “ii’s” in Guiides.com? Far from a typo, Dubois notes it makes the brand unique and it represents two people getting outside for an authentic adventure. He’s an impressive young man with an incredible grasp at a very young age, on what it takes to be successful.