Confetti, balloons and dancing in a picturesque street. It must be VoiceMap’s birthday!

VoiceMap is ten

VoiceMap turned ten this month. Ten years is a milestone worth celebrating, but it also invites an uncomfortable question. Are we still a startup? 

I’ll start with what I think is the most straightforward answer. In the last twelve months, we’ve paid out more royalties than we did over the previous nine years combined. If a startup is a company with a business model that works best at scale, and most of its growth still ahead of it, VoiceMap is definitely a startup.   

Other metrics bear this out, from what has been a busy start to 2024: 

  • We released version 11 of the VoiceMap app, with wishlisting, adjustable playback speeds and a redesigned library. 
  • We published 90 tours in ten weeks. Our first 90 tours took almost 80 weeks.
  • We added new distribution channels, including Klook and direct listings with Google Things To Do. This is on top of what is already the widest and most flexible range of distribution options available for self-guided tours.

We put this growth at the centre of how we measure our success, alongside quality, but when we plug all our new tours into extra distribution channels, we do end up with a problem. 

Every tour now has up to eight different product listings, and they all have their quirks. Bestsellers in our apps don’t always convert well on our website, for example, and tours that succeed on Viator might not do well on GetYourGuide. If we only had one tour, or even twenty, we could tinker and tweak continuously to get the mix just right. But with 1,500 tours? We’ll reach that number later this year. 

Focusing on Publishers 

Our solution is to focus on you, the publisher, and put your tours at the centre of how we work through this complexity. There are two parts to this, for now: 

  1. Two account managers joined our team at the end of 2023. You may well have heard from Lisa and Brent already. It’s their job to help you get the most out of publishing with VoiceMap.
  2. We’ve launched two new publishing plans, called Growth and Priority, and improved the Pro and Premium plans. You’ll find a detailed breakdown of all four here. If you’d like to learn more, we’ll be discussing them in two April webinars. You can RSVP for those here.

The Basic Plan is still an option, and it still includes everything you need to publish and distribute a tour. But the new plans allow us to offer a more nuanced range of features and services, and to place as much emphasis on distributing your tours as we do on producing them. 

The new plans also recognise that VoiceMap is going to develop a lot faster in its second decade and that, as we scale up, our publishers are going to need more attention from us. Take Context Travel, which published its first tour in August last year, then published 46 more. That’s a lot of script editing. Over 365,000 words of it.

VoiceMap’s Cape Town team squinting into the sun on a bright day at Jordan Wine Estate in December 2023. From left to right: Gary, Brent, Claire, Keith (sitting), Iain, Lisa, Alicia, David.

Coming Soon  

There is a lot more in the pipeline for 2024, some of it coming soon. We’re working on an upgrade to indoor audio guides that lets you break them into sections – like a series of specific galleries, or permanent and temporary exhibits – while still giving listeners the structure of a route. We’re also building Spotify and Apple Music playlists into tours, so you can fade songs in and out around voice locations without worrying about licences. If you’re interested in publishing a tour that uses these new features, you’ll find more information here

VoiceMap’s Hanoi team at the city’s West Lake in January 2024. From left to right: Thang, Tao, Iain, Son and Trung.

It’s partly because of this momentum that I feel safe saying VoiceMap is more like a startup now than it ever has been before. But I didn’t begin this journey because I wanted to run a startup. I wanted to bring a new medium to the world. I still do. 

It’s just that now, after years of support from Tao, Gary, Alicia and the rest of our team, as well as the many publishers I’ve come to count as friends, we get to focus on the “bring it to the world” bit as much as the “new medium” part that we’ve been iterating on for a decade. I’m as excited by the challenge as I was on day one.

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