“It’s no secret, every traveler wants a friend in every city they visit. Trusted friends, and insider information, is the lifeblood of amazing travel experiences. Two people with shared passions and experiences meeting eye-to-eye in the same room and forming real relationships is where life’s magical moments stem from. Finding those amazing connections is a horribly inefficient process. We see a better way” – Drew Meyers, Co-Founder of Horizon App
With the growing demand for free or cheap places to stay around the world, many new services have risen to prominence within the hospitality and travel marketplace. Airbnb, VRBO, HomeAway and coach surfing services have become fierce competitors to the traditional hotel stays giving travelers better options for lodging and an opportunity to live like a local while abroad. Horizon, a relatively new mobile app and web-based service has joined the marketplace offering travelers the ability to intersect travel, community and social good with each stay. Launched in March of 2015 by Drew Meyers, Will Moyer and Oren Borovitch, Horizon provides a searchable private hospitality exchange network in over 120 countries around the world.
The mission of Horizon is to increase access to travel opportunities by enabling shared hospitality among trusted contacts and communities; providing free or cheap accommodation and cultural experiences not otherwise available. The founders of Horizon strongly believe in the importance of getting people to travel and experience cultures vastly different than their own in order to create a society that gives back and understands the world.
“Enabling more people to venture outside the friendly confines of the their own country and experience an array of foreign cultures, will grow the community of those who realize we live privileged lives the majority of the world can only dream of. Those who experience the world are exponentially more likely to work on projects that improve society and raise the standard of living for those in poverty, rather than just maximizing income”. – states Drew Meyers.
I had the opportunity to interview Drew about Horizon and how it is supporting sustainable, local travel around the world. Here is what I learned.
What was the inspiration behind founding Horizon?
In my opinion, traveling leads people to be better citizens of the global, interconnected world we live in. People who leave the comforts of their home realize that a huge majority of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty and does not have the things we do. Therefore people who travel and see the reality of the world with their own eyes, come back different and lives their lives differently than people who don’t travel.
I fundamentally don’t believe time and money are the reasons more people don’t travel. It really boils down to fear, and the only way you counteract fear is with community. If screen addiction from the developed world spreads worldwide, I believe that’s a very dangerous world we’re headed towards — less empathy, very soulless and lonely. Lasting empathy only exists with in person experiences. The whole reason Horizon exists is to get people to go see the world with their own eyes. We founded Horizon to take away obstacles to travel and provide an easy, affordable hospitality exchange network within local communities around the world.
What does Horizon do?
Horizon facilitates hospitality exchanges among communities by enabling you to host your trusted network which includes friends and family, friends of theirs, and members of the associations and affinity groups you belong to. After their stay (if you accept), they’ll have the option to say thank you by making a donation.
How does Horizon work?
In order to find anyone on Horizon, you have to have either a mutual friend or mutual group. You don’t need a rating system among your own friends, and with friends of friends, you simply ask your mutual friend whether someone is trustworthy. Communities are a little trickier. The challenge with communities is they range considerably in trust. The Peace Corps is an incredibly high trust community, but most high trust communities are actually quite small. You trust community members based on other people in the community who you do know, and knowing what the barrier to entry is to join (maybe it’s money, maybe its a mutual shared experience).
What makes staying local better?
We believe a more connected travel experience is a better travel experience. Amazing travel experiences start and end with people. You either meet the right person(s) resulting in amazing social interactions, or those individuals send you down the right path with tips, advice, or even an introduction to one of their friends. Also, the best way to travel – staying with a local – also happens to be the least expensive means to explore the world.
We also believe true community matters. For many, community is family. For others, it’s a mix of family, friends, and like-minded connections. However you define it, every single one of life’s magical moments originates from community. We believe enabling community, wherever in the world you may be, is a problem worth spending years solving.
What makes Horizon different than other kinds of travel experiences and similar sites on the market today?
The big difference is we’re inserting airbnb/couchsurfing into existing communities such as Peace Corps, rather than build a new standalone community to compete against couchsurfing. Leveraging existing trust rather than building new trust. Our product enables you to make your accommodation details/availability visible to those in your own trusted network, but not publicly for anyone to find.
How many people are using Horizon today?
8500 people are on the platform and 120+ countries.
What is your Travel by Giving Program and how does it work? How much have you raised?
The concept is replacing or supplementing the traditional house gift with donations back to the charities that made those stays possible. We get a flat $3.99 fee, and the traveler can donate whatever they want on top of that. We’ve raised about $1,000 that has been given to Kiva.org.