Roaming with a purpose

Greg Curcio and Jason Fabbri are both avid travellers. The friends, who stayed in touch when Jason moved on to pastures new after working for Greg in the energy sector, often discussed their trips and the fact that the various travel guides available focus on destinations’ best-known “highlights” and are light on offering authentic local experiences.

The boys are both form Italian backgrounds, and bemoaned the fact that their grandparents had passed away without sharing their extraordinary stories of their migration journey from Italy to Australia. Spurred on by this, and a bad experience Greg had overseas on the back of information by a travel guide, they determined to create an app, that they called Roamni, that would enable travellers to upload an audio guide the to sites of interest in the cities they are roaming around.

Greg and Jason pitched for, and won, RMIT’S $25,000 New Enterprise Investment Fund (NEIF, the pre-cursor to the Activator grants), the money enabling them to build a prototype, do some customer testing (and feed people while they did it!) and secure trademark protection in Australia and overseas.

They were accepted into a residency at the Activator soon after it opened in September 2016. Despite both working full-time they were still able to avail themselves of the expertise of the Activator’s mentors and business coaches, doing so remotely, and spent many a weekend at their hot desk in the Activator and in its boardroom holding development meetings

“The Activator is a real community,” Greg says, “and the fact that we have been able to bounce our ideas and problems off the other companies in the travel and leisure space coming through there has been invaluable.”

Jason adds, “The Commercial advice and opportunity to put what we has learned into practice is the biggest thing we have taken out from the Activator.”

One of the highlights of Greg and Jason’s Activator journey was their involvement with [email protected] Palace, an opportunity to spruik investor interest in Roamni to a board representing HRH Prince Andrew’s scheme that RMIT is involved with.

Roamni launched on the app store on 16 February this year with over 40 audio tours – historical, sightseeing, shopping and dining among them – available at locations across Australia. Greg says that they have had a great response from both the travelling public and the local authorities in the locations featured.

“There are many local councils who arrange walking tours who haven’t had the budget to promote them through anything other than pamphlets,” Greg says. “Now they can digitise them through putting them on Roamni for nothing.”

Greg and Jason are monetising the app, most of whose tours are free to download, by allowing businesses to promote some tours and charge for them, with the money being split between the tour provider and Roamni. They will also be accommodating councils’ promoted pages featuring multiple attractions in their area, that they will pay to host on the app.

The app’s users can download a 30-second preview of those tours that do come with a charge, to see if they want to pay to download the whole tour.

This story first appeared in issue 20 of the Inside Small Business quarterly magazine.

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