Woody Sears has long been interested in storytelling. After the first iPhone debuted in 2007, he founded a story app called Zuuka, which created a library of narrated and illustrated books for children for iPhone and iPad.
Sears later sold the company to a small organization in New York. But Sears, which is based in Santa Barbara, California, is not yet done with stories. Instead, they raised only $ 1.6 million in funds for membership to their second and latest storytelling startup Hearhair, a subscription-based audio road-trip app that, with users’ permission, is pushing information to them As they are driving, giving them informative tidbit about their surroundings in a three to five minute segment, including points of interest they may not be aware of.
The idea is to bring the unknown or forgotten history of the regions to the ground, which makes sense in a world where more people have returned on road trips and parents are desperate to divert their children’s attention from Tiktok. . In fact, Sears’ neighbor, Kevin Costner, liked the idea so much that he recently joined his five-man team as a co-founder and narrator and investor, as well as Snap Inc., the law firm Koloi, Camping Star Marcus Lemonis, AAA and many other individual investors from World CEO and Reality TV NextGen Venture Partners.
Because we, too, like history and road trips (and well, okay, Kevin Costner), we talked with Sears and Costner before today about why they think they will succeed with Hearing when other material – There are rich geo-location based applications that fell short of meaningful adoption.
Excerpts from that chat follow are lightly edited for length.
TC: You’re making an audio map of America, so how many stories have you kept in the bank, as we speak?
WS: We have up to 5,500 stories in 22 states, and we will be nationwide in the summer. The mission is to connect people to the places through which they are traveling, lending stories about history, natural wonders and colorful characters who live in that area. We also do sports and music stories and provide local insights.
TC: It’s a lot of material to collect, edit down, then record. What does the process look like?
WS: At the end of the day, content is king, and we take great care with these stories, framing them with a team of 22 researchers, writers, editors and narrators, most of whom come from a travel journalism background . We really feel that we get the best result through that team’s approach.
Finally, we will open up to third-party content contributors, where we are hosting both professional content and user-generated content.
TC: Is there an AI component or will it be?
WS: We see it as a more augmented reality that these stories really overlay the landscape and give you a different perspective as you travel. But AI and machine learning are things we will include as we start moving into foreign languages and produce better content for the end user.
TC: What kind of stories do you prefer to build this content library?
WS: The major historical markers are a big inspiration, but we’re also looking for those lesser-known gems, and we look at travel patterns – the way people when they go on holiday trips means that they Retaking what are called interstate highways and which scenic routes are the most popular.
TC: How does a subscription piece work?
WS: You get five free free stories every month; For unlimited streaming, it is $ 35.99 per year.
TC: Kevin, you should be approached with startup ideas and investment opportunities. Why join with this one?
KC: Obviously I’m story-oriented; This is not a shock to anyone. But you are right, a lot of thoughts come to me.
Hairhair came through my wife, who said that Woody had something he wanted to talk about, and as he explained it to me, I got it, you know? For me it is a shining thing, the ability to tell a story and bring out a good story, especially when it comes to our country.
So we had this meeting and they explained to me this concept, which is equivalent to my whole life already, stopping at bronze plaques all over the country and reading about their historical significance – [moments] Such an obstacle in the journey of everyone except mine. [Laughs.] You know [it’s] Getting out and dragging my feet and reading a little history and dreaming while the rest of the people in the car are moaning because we have stopped our progress.
this [product] For me it’s an extension of it, without getting out of the car, and with stories that can develop and maybe grow longer. And I can get more involved in what I was driving in the past and people in the car can probably understand what it was that interested me enough to stop.
TC: You love history.
Casey: Hairhere is a lot more than history, but for me, it was history [that I found so compelling]. And this is how the foundation was set to become more involved in the company and understand it better and then become someone who wanted to be a part of its founding.
TC: AAA and Camping World are among the company’s strategic investors. How can they promote the app, and what else have you partnered to get the hair in front of people at the right time?
WS: Camping World also owns the Good Sam Club, the largest organization of RV owners in the world, and a giant with 57 million members in AAA America, and they do it all as a way to accomplish what they want I see Currently doing for his audience; It is making that bridge digital, and we are really excited to get it in front of our members and customers.
We also have a partnership [the RV marketplaces] Outdoor and RVshare [and the RV rental and sales company] Cruise America. It is a very hot market.
TC: There are similar views. Caterina Fake’s Findery was an early app intended to help users learn more about places. Detour, a startup that provided cities-run audio tours, founded by Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason, sounded interesting but failed to land with users. Do you think this startup will click?
WS: I loved Detour. I ate them both.
I think that’s where i think [Detour] Missed was the number of scenarios that fit the product-market where you could use it and with it, it competed for people’s time. We chose to start with road trips because you have a captive audience; Do this only when you are driving in a car, as opposed to when you are in a city, where there are all kinds of options to explore its history, including physical history and tour guides. You also had to take two hours of your time off, and it’s easy to get distracted when you’re walking around.
We want to occupy spaces that are accompanied by travel and are less known and more untold and where there is space for people to engage in it. Starting in a short form helps. It is also on-demand, so you do not need to follow a pre-determined route. We are not taking you on a special tour where you have to turn left or turn right. We are going to surface stories for you, no matter what path you take