How to Get Around in Venice?
Helpful New Prontopia App Turns Trip Days into Travel Days
Fellow Italianista Shannon Kenny loves getting lost walking in the city when time and logistics allow, but has faced the challenges of navigating foreign cities on a time crunch or traveling alone with 2 kids in tow.
She teamed up with fellow international traveler and social entrepreneur, Davis Brimer, to launch the new app Prontopia, so that travelers can request on-demand help in the city from a friendly local, in those troublesome, unanticipated moments.
Prontopia is a California-based company, with its first launch city in Venice, Italy, where a growing community of Locals on the platform enjoy helping travelers with how to get around in Venice however needed, and sharing their beloved culture.
Co-founders Davis and Shannon had previously collaborated on a social impact project at a tech start up. Traveling around the globe meeting intense deadlines, they shared travel stories of logistical problems on all types of journeys. They shared the opinion that hopping in an Uber or taxi as the “quick and easy” choice in areas that may have been walkable or better navigated via public transportation was impersonal. It is also not always the best way to arrive.
More brainstorming about the benefits of walking in cities led to a vision of how great it would be to request on demand a friendly local to help with getting around the city, assist a bit with luggage or a package or two, and provide orienting practical advice about the best way to enjoy the area.
Launching in Venice meant somewhat of a commute for these founders, who did a deep dive among the local community to ensure they were building something sustainable and of value to both Venetians and travelers. With an office in the Santa Croce sestiere of Venice, it was also fun to enjoy local culture in a great spot for less touristy dining, live music, and shopping. (In fact, they have some local tips for what to do in Santa Croce on the Prontopia blog.)
The service was launched initially in April 2017 in Venice. Prontopia is an app that enables travelers to connect with Locals for assistance in walkable city centers. Version 2 of the app will be available in January. Travelers can also request to connect with a Local on the Prontopia website with 24 hours advance notice, or pre-schedule assistance via the app. The cost is 20 euro per hour, with a minimum fee of 5 euro.
Prontopia recruits the Locals through partnerships with universities and organizations in Venice. Each Local goes through an interview process and a background check. The company is initially focused, on enabling a human connection to solve an immediate problem – requesting a Local on demand, as the need arises, for help getting around the city. Presently, if a traveler requests a tour guide or tourist accompanier, the Local will refer them to the official networks of licensed professionals.
In building the company as a community, Shannon and Davis discovered a meaningful synergy between alleviating stress during travel transitions, and a fun encounter between locals and travelers. This has value especially for Venice, where the problems of over tourism can lead to an environment of disrespect. Travelers report they initially use the service out of a desire to solve an immediate problem, but that ultimately they valued the chance to meet someone from Venice. The experience made them feel they are a part of something special. And the Locals of Prontopia Venice say something similar: They really feel the respect they generate from the traveler and have a sense that this respect carries over to the travelers’ feelings about the city.
These continent hopping entrepreneurs have a vision for where to go from here, as they explain:
“We hope that by minimizing stress while getting around the city, this meaningful human encounter can steadily grow to open hearts and minds to be more respectful of the local culture of a place. We are excited to carry this model forward and see where our responsible travel adventure will take our community as we add more cities in Italy, and around the world. Come join us!”
About Founders, Davis & Shannon:
Chief Executive Officer Davis Brimer is a social entrepreneur with an engineering background across multiple technology industries. Located in California and Italy, Davis is passionate about building and growing conscious companies globally. Over the past decade while traveling the world as founder and CEO of an innovative medical technology company, Davis found the most meaningful experiences near and far resulted from human connections in the most ordinary of places.
Whether walking in the city or mountains, it was by traveling with two feet on the ground and eyes wide open that Davis has discovered adventure, found friendship, and learned along the way that to give is truly to receive.
Chief Impact Officer Shannon Kenny is a historian and social entrepreneur with a background in Travel; Education; and Communications with over 20 years’ experience leading international, cross-cultural ventures to success. Shannon’s research on medieval Europe chronicled the rise of the city state, based on a fascination with urban planning concepts of conviviality — of ancient and early modern humanistic views on living together in harmony.
Shannon loves the freedom and invigoration of walking in the city wherever she goes. She dreams of reinventing ancient ideas of civitas through Prontopia as a location-based mobile solution for life in walkable cities that creates positive global-local impacts through meaningful human connections.
Some other helpful info from Prontopia:
I’m so pleased and honored that Shannon is a Contributor to the Bonus Section, More ExpertZ TipZ, of my Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style!