What if you could travel anywhere in the world with the reassurance that a good friend is on the ground ready to show you a city’s hidden gems? What if the process of planning an itinerary went from a research task to an engaging conversation? What if you’ve lived in the same city your whole life and just want to discover something new?
There’s an app for that!
UrbanBuddy is an application created by travel gurus Mike Stone and Paul Brogna.
I recently sat down with tech and travel gurus Mike Stone and Paul Brogna at the Aspen-inspired hotel, Gild Hall (a Thompson Hotel) in lower Manhattan, to discuss their new app, UrbanBuddy.
As we sat in the hotel’s Tuscan-style restaurant, Felice, and feasted on a fabulous lunch, I asked the duo some basic questions about their app.
First, of course, was how they got started.
In 2012, Brogna was living abroad in Barcelona when he started the UrbanBuddy prototype, helping Spaniards (local and non), understand the cosmopolitan Catalan cultural and culinary landscape. He would provide his cell phone number to people, and allow them to text him, asking him questions about their community, 24 hours a day. It was a very rudimentary, but still effective, approach to connecting people to the cool stuff around town.
“We consider ourselves local ambassadors, and we take pride in sharing our city with others. Similarly, when we travel, we prioritize expediting the discovery process through connecting with trusted locals” said Brogna. “However, this process can often be time-consuming, especially if it’s in a city where we don’t know anyone.”
While Brogna tapped into Barcelona local’s scene, Mike, an entrepreneur who co-founded a Study Abroad recommendations platform, Abroad 101, was creating a similar tool to help students live like locals. Quite fortuitously, Paul and Mike met through the same ethos of interconnectivity and human-powered search they are developing with UrbanBuddy. In this case, it was the introduction through a mutual friend in the NYC startup scene that facilitated their crossing paths, which proved to be much more effective and efficient than any online search for a co-founder.
“Immediately upon meeting we were both struck by our overlapping vision and passion for creating technology that can revolutionize how people travel, discover, and connect” said Stone. “We both resonated with the importance of travel and how much it impacts global citizenship and intercultural understanding.”
One year later, and UrbanBuddy is now a full functioning app helping people live like locals. Whether you’re visiting a particular city or have lived there for years, you can ask questions like “What is the best eco-friendly dry cleaning store in my neighborhood?” or “Where can I get truffle pizza at 3am?” or even, “What interesting events are going on in town this weekend?”. The questions, and answers, are endless!
The app UnrbanBuddy allows tourists to live like the locals.
Whatever your curiosity, as soon as you enter your question, a live (and local) buddy pops up, via text, on the screen, and helps you navigate your neighborhood. You can continue to engage in conversation until you’ve received all the information you need, and before you know it, you’re on your way to your next adventure…or simply, your new dry cleaning spot. And their recommendations are legitimate, each “Buddy” has been vetted and approved by the UrbanBuddy team!
Based in New York City, UrbanBuddy’s commitment to personalizing local discovery is exciting because it has such remarkable potential to simplify the overwhelming process of online research, all while evolving the way adventurists, experts, and hospitality businesses can connect.
UrbanBuddy has the answer to all your travel questions.
The app is free and available in the iOS store. You can sign up and chat with a local in seconds! Stay tuned for more, as Mike and Paul have some big plans for this burgeoning buddy and carefully curated list of city trekking adventures across the globe! ■