Meet the student entrepreneur who wants to turn travel into a game
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Anyone who remembers when Pokémon GO first came out in 2016 will remember the masses of people, driven by the chance to catch and train their favourite Pokémon, venturing out into their towns and cities to explore. Mark Yeo, a Singaporean international student at King's College London and co-founder of exploration app ExplorR, has created something similar, in the hopes of turning travel into an adventure game.
explorR Logo Courtesy of Mark YeoBush House, the home of the King's Business School, is the perfect place to meet the young entrepreneur, who will graduate this year with a BSc in Economics and Management. Catching him in the middle of a busy day, I sat down with Mark to interview him for The National Student. Tell us about yourself, and about ExplorR. Mark: I'm one of the co-founders of ExplorR, a location-based game that tries to gamify spontaneous exploration. Rather than the user planning their trip when they go to a new place, what ideally they should do is go to that place, open up the ExplorR app, and randomly discover new places as they journey on. We're recreating the exploration experience for our users. The idea is that when you discover something out of surprise, you get the thrill of a unique experience, which is something not many mainstream tourists could do.
Mark Yeo. Image Credit: Mark YeoSo what's the story behind ExplorR? How did it begin, and how did you get here? Mark: It started off with two co-founders meeting at summer school in Paris, in 2017. It was literally an East-meets-West story! One of my friends from King's, who is French-Italian, met a guy from China. My French-Italian friend had this idea of exploring China without relying on a tour group, while Jingwu (the Chinese guy) was more than happy to showcase what China could offer to foreigners like him. Jingwu was keen to bring him around, but he recognised that a lot of the traditional tour companies couldn't bring foreigners to really authentic places in China. The initial idea was to create a platform where, instead of relying on tour companies, locals would bring foreigners to unique places that they know. I came in to say that we want to fundamentally change travel, rather than becoming just another platform or agency, because there was no competitive advantage in such a business model. There are a lot of apps in China where people can meet up for inbound travelling, as well as other platform apps, and of course, there are plenty of traditional, if outdated, tour companies. We needed to change the whole exploration experience, and we could do that using location-based technology similar to Pokémon GO or augmented reality. Why not allow people to explore, discover and get rewarded for doing so? I was also inspired to do this because I play a lot of video games with a huge open world where you have your avatar just exploring, adventuring without knowing what to expect. That feeling is something I want to translate into real-life - this time, we are the adventurers discovering the real world! You mentioned video games. What kind of games do you play?
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