VoiceMap: A Platform for Storytellers and Travellers
VoiceMap was inspired by the love of travel and the power of storytelling.
Some months ago, I wrote this for a blog post that another company was doing on VoiceMap. I had just started working there and was pretty proud of it but it never got published. Today I decided to publish it here, to share with all of you what I do during the day, when I’m not on an adventure, behind the camera or in the kitchen.
One of travel’s greatest joys is exploring somewhere new, and discovering its story first hand, by meeting local people. It’s tricky to do this spontaneously, which is why you’ll often find groups following a guide, doing a tour. But those groups assemble at specific times. And they can be pretty slow because everybody has to gather up around the guide to hear. If you stop — to take a photo, buy a bottle of water, or tie your shoelaces — you fall behind. If somebody else stops, you have to wait. But not with VoiceMap. That’s us by the way.
We’re a location-aware audio tour app for Android and iOS that gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace. You can start our walks at any time and stop whenever and wherever you like, for as long as you like. The app uses your location to play audio automatically, at exactly the right time and place, and when you start moving again, playback will too. It also gives you directions, making it much easier to put your phone away and immerse yourself in your surroundings, not the screen. It’s like having the world in your pocket.
And it’s not just for walking. We have cycling, driving and even boat tours that you can do at your leisure. You could be an armchair tourist, transported by audio to the intimate corners of some far off city from the comfort of your couch. Or you could explore your own backyard.
VoiceMap was inspired by the love of travel and the power of storytelling. We believe that the right story, told at the right time, can change how we look at familiar places as easily as it alters our perception of somewhere new. Take Woodstock for example. When people think about this historical neighbourhood they often think of decaying buildings covered in graffiti or the popular Neighbourgoods Market, but if you apply an entrepreneurial lens to it you might see endless opportunities for renewal and growth instead.
It’s not considered Cape Town’s startup hub for nothing. In 2018, we worked with the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative (CiTi) on a tour that explores Woodstock’s startup culture. They’re an organisation working with government, business and society to promote the development of the digital economy. Considering Woodstock is where we got our start, we’re quite fond of the tour.
We’ve grown from a small local business into a large publishing platform with over 500 tours covering over 150 cities across the world. We’ve created tours that capture attention for businesses and brands, including the V&A Waterfront, Groot Constantia, Spier Wine Farm, Visit Dubai and the University of Oxford, to name a few. But mostly we help passionate locals tell their stories, like an exploration of Aberdeen’s history told through its relationship with crimes and their punishments, a failed comedians favourite spots in Melbourne or Amsterdam’s Red Light District.
Don’t just take our word for it, the New York Times’ Rachel Lee Harris thinks so too! In 2015 she wrote, “Could there be anything more helpful than having a journalist in your pocket when touring a new city? How about a historian, a novelist or just a really passionate local? VoiceMap culls city-specific stories from them all and fits them neatly into walking tours.”
And it doesn’t get any cooler than having Gandalf’s Sir Ian McKellen leading you around London’s theatre district, does it?