Let’s say you’re on spring break in Panama City Beach, Fla., and you booked the trip through a travel agency that gives you a schedule and map of activities happening that week. Free beer is being served here at this time. There’s an exclusive party over there the next day. The problem you may face is you don’t necessarily know how to get around in the best way possible. Sure, there’s Google Maps and its competitors, but it doesn’t provide an entirely seamless experience in terms of showing you things that are only relevant to your trip.
“They want to know when the next party is and where the next free beer is.”
That’s where Beam comes in. The Boston startup launched its namesake location-sharing app last year on Android and iOS as a way to help people locate each other or connect at a particular pin on the map, and it’s about to provide spring break travelers a better way to find the free beer, happy hour deals (for those of legal age, of course) and other attractions that are part of their travel packages through interactive, curated maps on its app.
The startup announced Tuesday that it has landed a business partnership with StudentCity, a Peabody, Mass.-based travel agency that books spring break travel packages for college students. This marks the startup’s first business partnership and a step closer to commercializing the app, which may still be ways off but gives a preview of how it can make money in the future.
Through the partnership, Beam aims to reach 10,000 students who use StudentCity to book spring break trips in Panama City; Nassau, Bahamas; and South Padre Island, Texas.—which would be a considerable boost to the roughly 7,000 users the startup says it currently has.
Suzanne Lilley, who co-founded Beam with Milenko Beslic after working together at Cheapflights.com, told BostInno that students booking trips through StudentCity as part of this pilot test will be told to download the Beam app and add a curated StudentCity map layer that features attractions and events relevant to their spring break travel packages.
So instead of using Google Maps, which shows everything in a given area, Beam will only show the locations students need to know about for the trip, like which bar is having happy hour deals, in addition to providing notifications about upcoming events. And, of course, as part of Beam’s original functionality, the app will let students connect and locate each other by sharing their own “Beams.”
“They want to know when the next party is and where the next free beer is,” Lilley said. “Of course from a commercial side, these guys want to get them to the bars and clubs. We want to get them there safely and obviously to enjoy it, so it seems to work all around.”
Lilley said Beam’s partnership with StudentCity reflects the direction the startup plans to take with the app: partnering with organizations that have a need to create digital maps for their customers that are temporary, interactive and curated.
“A main focus of our organization is to embrace new technologies that modernize how we communicate with young people in today’s mobile centric world,” Luke Shelley, StudentCity’s CMO, said in a statement. “This partnership is focused on delivering a more seamless and interactive Spring Break vacation experience for our student travelers as well as creating new opportunities for StudentCity and GradCity. Beam is going to really personalize how we communicate with students and how students communicate with each other in ways we haven’t even started to imagine.”
Other areas Beam is looking at for business partnerships are festivals and events. Lilley provided the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as an example of something that can take advantage of Beam’s curated map layers. Because the festival takes place over a sprawling field, it would be beneficial for attendees to have a digital, curated map instead of printed-out PDF that can be confusing to use.
While Beam isn’t making any money from the StudentCity partnership, Lilley said, it does provide a preview of how the pre-revenue startup could make money in the future. The startup is also exploring the idea of contextual sponsorship placements within Beam’s map that would be connected to the event or location a user is attending.
However, for now, Beam is focusing on its StudentCity partnership and how students end up using the app, Lilley said. From there, the startup will be able to determine the kind of value it will be able to bring to other organizations.
“For this, it’s very much, OK, let’s get the numbers; we’ve made lots of contacts in the last six months in terms of people who want to do this. Now let’s figure out what we can actually bring to the table,” Lilley said.
Starting last week, the startup began working out of Raizlabs’ office on 50 Milk St. in Boston as part of the app development shop’s relatively new XLR8 incubator program, which aims to help Beam and five other mobile-focused startups “improve their products and the success of their businesses.” The program will end in May with a demo day.
Beam is completely bootstrapped, but it is “actively looking for fundraising,” Lilley said.
“We believe this is going to be hugely successful, because, to me, it feels like a no brainer,” she said of Beam’s new direction with StudentCity and other events-based organizations. “But, of course, we have to see how it works.”