The young Birmingham tech company, Kompas is blazing a trail with its award-winning and simply amazing ‘pocket guide to the world’s urban jungle’
If, like us, you love exploring the backwaters of a city but don’t have the time to spend hours or days attempting to research the most original, quirky, different places to visit, Birmingham-based technology company Kompas has just the answer. Its award-winning mobile phone and tablet city app is described as ‘a pocket guide to the world’s urban jungles’.
According to Kompas co-founder and CEO Tom Charman the aim is to highlight the obscure things in the chosen city – those truly hidden gems that you won’t find in any regular guide, whether that be amazing and different places to eat, secret off-the-beaten track sights to see, or alternative nuggets for music and the arts. In fact, anything you wouldn’t ordinarily get to know about or go to see.
In under three years Kompas has gone from a small idea, fuelled with food and a love of exploring to a mobile app available on both iOS and Android which has won a clutch of top accolades for innovation. The most recent saw 24-year-old Tom win Birmingham Chambers of Commerce’s Future Face of Technology and overall Future Face of Birmingham awards.
Kompas was started by Tom and co-founder Olivia Higgs when they spent a year living in and exploring Munich, Germany. They set out on the trail of finding original and different places to eat before expanding to explore abandoned railway stations, street art in the underground and hidden city passages. They even discovered homemade vodka being served in a Franco-Slavic bar.
“I wanted to explore the city,” said Tom, “but there wasn’t anything good enough to help me find the kind of places I wanted to go to. You can spend so much time searching for information and come up with nothing. When you do find something it is never personalised to your interests, and when you read the reviews they are fake.”
After posting their findings on a Facebook page and an Instagram account under the name Hidden Munich, the pair realised from the response and feedback that there was a market for a city exploration app to help people uncover these incredible places. Their blog attracted more than 20,000 users in six months, proving that Tom wasn’t the only one finding it hard to get the information he wanted about the city.
“Kompas is all about offering exceptional experiences to those with a sense of adventure,” said Tom. “If you’re just looking to walk the same old trail along to the same old tourist traps, I’d strongly advise you to try somewhere else.”
The Kompas team, which includes design, production and software gurus, is currently 10-strong and growing all the time to match the expansion of the business. So far, the app covers six cities – London, Birmingham, Exeter and Liverpool in the UK and Munich and Berlin in Germany. Over the next 12 months, a further 11 UK and European cities will be added with Paris being the first. Longer term, there are plans to cover North America and Asia within the next five years. Based at Innovation Birmingham Campus, the business has a marketing partnership with train company London Midland.
NO BIG CHAINS
Tom said: “When we decide to launch in a city and we have the right people in place, it takes about two weeks to get it up and running. Once we’ve launched and we can see it grow sustainably by itself we begin to think about the next city. We are at a stage now where companies approach us to be on the app, but they must have less than five outlets in the city we are operating in. We are talking about featuring the obscure and unusual, so we are talking independents, not big chains. If a big chain approaches us, we turn them away. It is not what we are about.”
Kompas has been recognised with a number of top industry awards. Hello Tomorrow, a global organisation bringing together leaders in break-through technology, named Kompas one of the Top 500 Deep-Technology companies in the world. In July, Visa Everywhere selected Kompas the overall award winner in its competition to foster partnerships with innovative startups. The firm was also shortlisted as one of 2017’s hottest travel startups in the Europas, the leading awards for Europe’s top tech businesses.
“So many great city features are missed by people just not realising the wealth of amazing opportunities waiting around every corner,” said Tom. “It’s our mission to help people discover the experiences they’ll want to share with everyone they know, whatever it is they’re in to.”