Gidsy goes to Hollywood with its Airbnb for activities

When your most high-profile investor is a Hollywood star, it makes sense to branch out to LA. And that’s what Gidsy, one of the most intriguing companies in Berlin’s current crop of startups, is just about to do by launching a service for Los Angelinos on Wednesday.

Ashton Kutcher may be playing an internet entrepreneur on TV at the moment, but in real life he’s also one of the backers of Gidsy — a platform for hooking up consumers with people offering real-world experiences.

What does that mean? In practice, it’s a place where people sell their time giving tours, teaching, and much more. In Amsterdam, for example, a retired cop offers red light district tours. A London cab driver promises a tour of Harry Potter locations, and a course in Berlin offers to help people create their own sock monkeys. New York options range from walking tours to a lesson in “getting shit made in the USA.”

Basically, almost anything goes, and people seem to be lapping it up: the company only started operations in Berlin and Amsterdam around three months ago, and it’s already rolled out to San Francisco, London and New York.

Trust is crucial

Gidsy has a very simple business model, taking a 10 percent cut of what customers pay for their experiences. The rest goes to the person who’s offering up the activity, making Gidsy something of a micro-employment platform.

Like Airbnb and other services that bridge the divide between online and offline, Gidsy is largely based on trust. The service plugs into Facebook, making it reasonably identity-driven and the company holds fees in escrow — only releasing them to the seller after checking the customers got what they paid for. The flipside is that Gidsy also makes sure the vendor doesn’t have to collect the fees at the event. In theory, everyone’s protected.

The moneymen seem to be impressed. Kutcher’s involvement came along with seed funding from Sunstone Capital, Index Ventures, former Nielsen Entertainment CEO Peter Read and Amazon CTO Werner Vogels, all in all totaling $1.2m.

Gidsy’s Dutch CEO, Edial Dekker, told GigaOM on Tuesday that experiences lined up for the LA launch will include a Cirque du Soleil veteran teaching you how to breathe fire.

“We’re super excited to be launching in LA and can’t wait to see for which activities Gidsy will be used. It’s really interesting to see that every city has unique offerings that show a glimpse of what the city itself is like,” Dekker said.

In the future, he added, Gidsy aims to go as global as possible, taking in whole regions and branching out to support more currencies. The company also wants to add geo-search capabilities, to make it easier for people to find interesting local experiences.

“Next to the city launches, we’ve been working on a new way for organizers to offer activities through Gidsy, and we’re incredibly excited about this one,” he said. “Launching in LA brings us one step closer to a global community.”

Other LA Gidsy experiences will include a Hollywood sign hike and a course in how to avoid buying processed condiments ever again. Would it be too much to ask to have Kutcher giving a $15 studio tour?

Photograph of Edial Dekker used under Creative Commons license courtesy of Flickr user Opendata Network