Xplore Local’s CEO, Colin Hanley: “This is needed”

Xplore Local is a Galway-based start-up that is aiming to make it easier for people to explore their localities – and other locations around Ireland. Perhaps more importantly than this, however, they aim to make it easier for local economies to keep money within the community. If you’re wondering how they do it, their app is the answer.

When somebody downloads the app to use, they can discover local attractions, read local news, discover hikes, and enjoy guided trails. At the moment, they are still piloting in Fermoy, Co. Cork, but the plan over time will be to introduce numerous locations from across the country. In all, they are working with 14 towns across Ireland, with more in the pipeline, including Youghal, Tralee, Castlerea, and Galway city. Their goal is to pilot more transactional features in Ireland before expanding internationally.

Importantly, merchants and communities can leverage the app to promote their businesses, their attractions, their tourist traps, and in time even ticketed events. By amplifying the amazing places and events across all of these hidden gems, the idea is that more money will be poured into these economies – and it will be recycled to further develop these places. After all, many Irish towns have suffered from the talent suck of destinations like Dublin. But Xplore Local aims to shine a light on these forgotten gems.

What started as an initial idea 10 years ago, called Grid and Socket, has eventually grown legs over time to become what it is today. Colin Hanley is the CEO of Xplore, and he tells the PorterShed what Xplore Local represents to him.

“Where I grew up, we had the newsagents. We all worked in there. When I was a kid, there was no internet, so if you wanted an ad in the paper, you’d drop it in – you’d give me your ad. I’d fill out a little form for you, and I’d put it in the Cork Examiner box, or the local paper box, or the Irish Times box, and you’d pay me. I’d leave the money for the guy to come and collect it. If you’d a sale on or anything like that in your business, that’s what you did – it was the newspaper or bust,” Colin explains.  

Colin Hanley, pictured here, CEO of Xplore Local

“Things were simpler then, but everything has gone online, which is even better. But a lot of places are left behind.

“There’s a huge leakage out of local economies of small transaction fees that massive companies collect from everywhere. What we’re trying to do at Xplore is give a community the infrastructure to capture those fees and use them for local initiatives.”

Xplore are also planning to introduce a news feature – akin to that of Tortoise, which Colin says is an inspiration – that focuses on facts. They want to get news to readers that is sanitised of opinion, providing readers with objective information at their fingertips. Colin explains that news and where it comes from is important – never more so than today. Xplore’s goal is to educate the reader because to them a good community is well-informed.

The news will also provide a way for users of the app to keep up to date on what’s happening, how they can get involved, and more.

“One thing we want to do with Xplore – and why we’re making the news part front and centre – is that we want to teach people how to write creatively, but factually, so that they can share local information in a good way without angle. We have Leonie who writes content for us.

“Our tagline is ‘everything is local’ – International Book Day, Leonie Lacey did a great piece on that. And we’ll write up these template stories, send them out to our town partners, and they’ll add in the local book shop, the local library, their opening hours; so, we’re just trying to focus on national and international initiatives through a local lens,” Colin explains. 

The Xplore team will work with the communities, the businesses to do the branding, create the content, and teach them how to use the features so that everyone is maximising the benefits.  

“This is needed. Every community we meet, they want it,” Colin says.

As Colin gives a tutorial of the app, it’s clear that one of the other really fascinating aspects is the voucher feature which allows people to buy digital vouchers that can be gifted to friends or family, for example. Again, this is a really seamless way for people to give back to their local communities – and maybe find out more about them along the way.

Equally, the vouchers work through Stripe Connect which means that when someone spends one of these vouchers, the money goes straight into the merchant’s account. Xplore have done this at mathematically the lowest rate without the vouchers losing worth – which means the businesses are being charged the lowest fee possible for the transaction.

Almost every facet of the app has been built with the community in mind. Because while they offer news and tours through the app, they are partnering with local newspapers and tour guides so that they can make the most of the app for themselves. For example, local newspapers will be able to feature news on the app and have backlinks to their own sites.

Ultimately, the Xplore Local app is all about turning people’s gaze back to the local community, showing them what it’s all about, and highlighting it for what it could be. It’s all about giving back, but as Colin himself says, “you can give back and make money”, and that’s something businesses in towns all over the country should be excited about.

By Trevor Murray

Content Marketing Specialist at the PorterShed
Email: trevor@portershed.com | LinkedIn | Twitter


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