Japanese duo launches festival portal in Bangkok, looking to better serve globetrotters



See the original story in Japanese.

Backpacking is fun. We sometimes experience unexpected troubles during a trip, such as finding no public transport introduced on a guidebook or facing the fact that a town on a traveler’s map has vanished. But travel can turn them into a joy. I often visit many startup communities around the world, and that may be due to  such a mindset of a backpacker.

A curated information portal site focused on local festivities was recently launched in Bangkok, one of the world’s top backpacker hubs. The website is called Event Carnival and was developed by former Social Recruiting COO Kota Saito and prominent Japanese globetrotter Hiroki Takagi.

In fall of 2013, the duo promised each other in Tokyo that they would meet together in Thailand six months later. Saito went to India to help set up an English conversation school, and Takagi left Japan to polish his programming skills. Six months later in April this year, they met in Bangkok and participated in Songkran, the local traditional festival where people throw water on each others to celebrate. The duo counts many travel aficionados among their friends, and they have always been hearing of complaints like:

Participating in a local festival maximizes the attraction of a travel destination where it’s happening. But nobody in advance knows when and where to visit in order to join local festivals they may like.

Despite the fact that there are many guidebooks about sightseeing spots around the world, I have had no chance to find a one-stop information resource that presents how, when and where to join local festivals to be found worldwide. For this exact  reason the duo launched the festival-focused portal site. Carnival, the company behind the portal, fundraised an undisclosed sum in a seed round from Tokyo-based East Ventures in July.

As of today, most of the content on the website adopts images or videos provided by third parties under the Creative Commons license. However, the Event Carnival team will visit and cover as many festivals as possible by themselves; it will replace the content with their own article as it becomes available. While the website has an English interface, articles showing on up festivals are mainly comprised of images or videos rather than text, which makes it easier to ask their friend backpackers to contribute to the website without concerns about language barriers.

The Event Carnival team with backpackers staying at Startup House, Bangkok.

The Event Carnival team is currently managing a share house called Startup House in central Bangkok. They haven’t mobilized any massive promotional campaign for the service yet, but guests staying there have been spreading the word and helped the team a lot to build a solid user base. The team is currently focused on increasing content but not quite in a phase to consider massive monetization. Since  these users are staying under the same roof with the team, it’s easy both to carry out user validation and to fathom user needs.

The Event Carnival team is planning to start developing an Android mobile app first because they have chosen Southeast Asia as their main battlefield. In the future, they think that they will provide users with solutions meeting needs around festival participation, almost like what Meetup.com or Couch Surfing are providing as an ‘Event’ menu. Saito elaborated:

When you go on a trip, you should participate in local festivities at your destination. That’s our message. If you participate, your trip experience will be changed permanently and likely to stay in your heart forever.  There are many Gullivers in the hotel or flight booking industry. But I think there’s no Gulliver delivering better travel experience as well. We aim to become the top player in this space.

Many of our readers may think that Japanese startups like Trippiece or Voyagin can be competitors for Carnival; however,  each company provides different user experiences. Carnival looks to differentiate themselves from others by focusing on festival matters rather than an entire travel experience, in addition to targeting backpackers not only in Asia but also around the planet as potential users. It will indeed be intriguing to see how they fare with this strategy in such a competitive sector.

The Event Carnival team attended the Yeepeng Sansai ceremony in Chiangmai, Thailand.
Carnival CEO Koki Saito is pictured on the left.