BlueWalks logo betaBlueWalks is a Swedish startup online service for travelers who enjoy walking and sightseeing. In essence it is a Google Maps mashup, allowing users to browse, create, and share walking tours.

The founders state they want to give travelers a chance to plan their trips easier and faster. In the future, the BlueWalks team also wants to eliminate the need to carry along travel books and other material. The value proposition is users can create and browse unlimited amount of different routes around various points of interest, compared just a few routes typically listed in printed travel guides.

BlueWalks has been founded by an international team of students from the Stockholm School of Entrepreneurship (SSES). The team members have roots in Sweden, Spain, Singapore, and China, providing a global view into developing the service. BlueWalks just took part in the international business plan competition Venture Challenge in San Diego, sent as a delegate of SSES. (Well, international in this case seems to mean that out of 25 teams 1 was from Canada, BlueWalks from Sweden, and the other 23 teams from the U.S.) BlueWalks did not get to the final, though.

BlueWalks screenshotRight now the service is only available on the web, but there is an iPhone app coming in June, according to Cristobal Viedma, Managing Director of BlueWalks. BlueWalks’ goal is to combine the mobile and web use for easy planning and on-spot walking tour navigation service. However, the mobile app will be online-only in the beginning, meaning you will need to have an open data connection to use it. That might be rather costly if using data roaming abroad. BlueWalks is also looking into creating an offline service to tackle this, but that will require enabling OpenStreetMap instead of Google Maps, and it will likely go until next year, Cristobal comments.

According to Cristobal the team aims to monetize the service in two ways. First, they are planning on using location-aware advertising (e.g. ads of restaurants, hotels nearby). Second, on iPhone BlueWalks plans to sell country packs at around USD 2 per country. However, the first months the application will most likely be free to grow the user base, Cristobal says. BlueWalks is currently seeking angel funding, having used friends and family for now.

Currently, BlueWalks focuses on purely word-of-mouth and viral marketing. They have already enabled easy sharing and embedding of the routes on social networks and other websites. BlueWalks tries to score cooperation deals with student associations, national tourism associations, and destination marketing organizations to embed the widget on the websites.

The service looks good, but is still quite basic after only a few months of development. Challenge to me seems to be that one needs to enter manually all points of interest – it would be much nicer to be able to use sights etc. already saved in the various services on web, with photos and all. Business-model-wise, location-aware advertising has been already discussed quite a long time, and nothing spectacular seems to have come out of that so far. There would probably need to be a whole lot of location services to which a single agency could sell and distribute ads. Otherwise it will be quite overwhelming for a single service to try to gather advertisers. Selling small packs on iPhone sounds better, though the users will need to see some clear value for not just using Google Maps for free.

Cristobal comments they try to differentiate BlueWalks with the web-mobile plan, and hope to gather a big community in their niche before any direct competitors would emerge. If considering specifically walking tours, there has not been that much competitor activity, but of course e.g. both Nokia and Google have expressed strong interest in pedestrian maps and navigation. Similarly there are lots of community-based travel recommendation sites. Nevertheless, great initiative from the team that follows the other startups from SSES like video editing service JayCut, and Sweden’s third largest telecom operator Glocalnet.

If you are attending ArcticEvening in Stockholm on April 2nd and have some free time, check out the nearby garden walk below…

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