CityAmigo.com bets on the rise of the ‘new-nomads’

As two well-travelled, multi-lingual, internet geeks it seems inevitable that Yuri Bacas Hosaka and Gerald Speers should end up creating a website dedicated to the needs of what they have dubbed …

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22nd October 2008 at 12:48 pm

As two well-travelled, multi-lingual, internet geeks it seems inevitable that Yuri Bacas Hosaka and Gerald Speers should end up creating a website dedicated to the needs of what they have dubbed the ‘new-nomads’.

CityAmigo.com which launched in mid-2007, something of a summer of love for Web 2.0 startups in London, aims to create an international network of community web sites that gives ex-pats in a new city the information they need in their native language.

The site currently covers London in English, Spanish and Turkish, but negotiations are in place to launch in New York, Dubai and Sydney.

London gets the CityAmigo treatment in English, Spanish and Turkish

CityAmigo.com is already generating some revenue as a result of affiliate deals and income from franchisees willing to buy the rights to develop sites for specific cities or more importantly, specific groups within a city.

The multi-lingual element of the site is key to the business model according to Gerald:

There are lots of community newspapers targeting small ads based on geographic regions. We’re trying to do it a slightly different way. We’re saying that everyone who speaks the same language is typically going to be a stronger community, so we’re selling ads targetted at specific cultures, not locations within a city.

As a result, a lot of careful planning has gone into designing the back end detail of central servers, custom code and caching to ensure the site can scale to cope with the demands of delivering content fast in multiple languages.

Beyond the technical issues, however, Yuri and Gerald hope to solve translation by franchising each language version for each city to native speakers.

But the multi-lingual nature of the site is at once its point of differentiation and its albatross. The challenge of rapidly rolling out high quality editorial content for city after city in multiple languages is huge.

Yuri Bacas Hosaka co-founder of CityAmigo.com

Not that either of the co-founders are short on entrepreneurial ambition and a desire to think big.

Start-ups hold no fear for Yuri who came up with the CityAmigo concept. Half-Spanish half-Japanese, she set up one business in Spain before going on to work for an online/mobile TV subsidiary of IMG. Her father was also an entrepreneur.

Gerald, on the other hand, is a veteran of the last dot com boom. He was interim CTO at dot com incubator KPE before seeing his own startup fall victim to the bursting bubble of 2000/2001.

So far CityAmigo.com has been bootstrapped, but with a little revenue now coming in, Gerald and Yuri are seeking a first round of funding of £400k in order to scale sales and operations to roll out at least 10 sites a year.

They both remain upbeat about finding funding, but acknowledge getting the right term sheet in the middle of a credit crunch could prove tough.  Nevertheless, early feedback from potential investors and partners has apparently been very positive.

What’s more it’s hard to find many competitors to CityAmigo.com online.  Perhaps the closest equivalent is Easy Expat.

The business model, however, suggests franchise-based sites like Touchlocal or theBestOf.  But CityAmigo adds a polyglot twist and an Andrew Keen or Mahalo-like determination to produce carefully controlled editorial content, rather than opening the site up to the UGC hoards.

Ultimately CityAmigo looks like a genuine opportunity, albeit a daunting task.  One which Yuri and Gerald are happy to take on and confident in embracing.  And, hey, it’s always good to see British-based internet entrepreneurs with real global ambition.

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Alex is the founder and editor of SmallBizPod, the UK's first podcast dedicated to small business, start-ups and entrepreneurship. Alex writes about topical small business issues, entrepreneurs and anything else that catches his eye here on the small business blog. http://www.smallbizpod.co.uk

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