Local online startups offer value-added services to compete with
Alan Zisman (c) 2010 First published in Business
March 30 - April 5, 2010 issue #1066
High Tech Office column
Over the past 10 to 15 years, a number of websites have managed to
gain market- and mind-share, offering online replacements for
traditional retail or face-to-face services.
Looking to book a flight or hotel? Expedia or Travelocity come to
mind. Looking for a job? Have you checked Monster.ca?
Despite the looming presence of these online industry giants, a pair
of local startups hope that by providing something extra they can build a
New Westminster-based ToursByLocals.com won’t get you the cheapest
flight. What it will try to do, however, is find you a local resident
who can give you personal attention when you do get wherever you’re
going. The system has 499 guides enrolled in 186 regions in more than 50
Paul Melhus and Dave Vincent got the idea while visiting an
out-of-the-way section of China’s Great Wall. A pair of elderly Chinese
women took them in hand and showed them the sights from a local’s
They’ve made contact with local tour guides, interviewing each using
online tools like Skype to ensure that they speak English and know about
their locality. Guides are independent contractors, not ToursByLocals
employees. The company receives a commission for hooking you up and
processing the payments. They’ll also act as an intermediary if things
don’t work out as planned.
ToursByLocals’ service has lots of potential, for business and
pleasure. Imagine you’re briefly in a foreign city on business and want
to have someone acquaint you with the lay of the land before your
meeting. Or your cruise ship docks in Civitavecchia overnight. Sure, the
cruise company can (for an additional fee) put you on a bus with 40
other travellers for a five-hour romp through nearby Rome. ToursByLocals
offers something that’s more personal and can be customized.
While ToursByLocals tries to bring travellers together with local
tour guides, Sean Donnelly’s new ResumeVideoVault.com is trying to
smooth out the experience of bringing job hunters and prospective
As the name suggests, it offers a service where job hunters can post a
short video resumé online. The service is free for applicants;
employers are charged a fee, but are promised resumés targeted to their
needs. The value-added bonus is that a short video clip can provide
quality information missing in traditional paper (or online) resumés: a
look at job seekers and a way to quickly evaluate their language skills,
presentation and self-confidence. Employers can buy access to the
resumé database for periods ranging from a week ($250) to a year
The service sells itself to job seekers as an opportunity to make
their job applications stand out from the crowd, noting that “if a
picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million.” It
offers employers a way to quickly weed through a large stack of resumés,
avoiding the situations where, based on a standard resumé, an applicant
is asked in for an interview, but it becomes embarrassingly clear in
the first minute or so that it just isn’t going to work out.
Uploaded video clips and contact information are not publicly
available on the Internet. They are made available only to prospective
employers. Currently, the service is targeting Canada and the U.S.;
Donnelly is hoping to be able to expand it to other countries.
Both ToursByLocals and ResumeVideoVault are innovative recent
startups; hopefully there is room for them to exist alongside the
well-established industry giants.