Have you ever visited a city and wanted to go beyond the major landmarks and tourist traps, but not known where to start? This is the problem Tom Charman faced when he moved to Munich for a year.
He, along with co-founder Olivia Higgs, decided to start a blog about their exploration of the city and see what might happen. Six months and 20,000 followers later, they realised that they weren’t the only people who wanted off-the-beaten path suggestions.
Armed with that knowledge, they started KOMPAS to solve the problem alongside Doug Walker and Kurt Henderson, and they wanted to do it in a smart way.
Using machine learning through their tech-focused backgrounds, they created an app that “understands who you are, what you like to do, what you’ve done previously and gives you recommendations based on your personal interests.” No longer do you have to rely on the limitations of your friends’ knowledge and sift through terrible tourist board websites. The app is about finding “hidden gems and the places that offer something a little different – it’s exciting.”
Currently in London, Birmingham, Munich and Berlin, the ambitious team want to continue building the machine learning technology and, ultimately, go beyond the travel industry to become a “leading Artificial Intelligence (AI) company” over the next few years.
Tom tells us confidently about the milestones and successes that Kompas has had so far; there have been funding rounds, awards and even a TED talk. He makes it all sound very easy. Of course, it wasn’t.
“Myself and Olivia started Kompas before we left university, so had to juggle studying, exams and working on this as near to full-time as possible. Both of us constantly looked at each other and asked ‘should we defer a year, or even drop out?’”
It came to a head during final exam season, when Tom had to squeeze in a competition between two exams only days apart. “It was hard, but we finished our degrees and launched into running Kompas full-time.