Published On: Thu, Aug 7th, 2014

Andrew Mason Launching GPS Based Audio guide App for Walking Tours


Andrew Mason, founder and former CEO of Groupon, is attempting a comeback in the high tech world with his new app for tourists, Detour.

The app will provide GPS based audio guides for walking tours.

Mason has a lot to prove, after being dumped from the company that he created. After a blockbuster IPO in 2011, he was fired by Groupon’s board in 2013 because of poor performance and low revenues.

Now Mason is using some of the $400 million he took with him for his share of Groupon to launch a new endeavor.

Ready for launching later this year in the San Francisco Bay area, Detour is a mobile app for location-aware audio walks that provides the user with a virtual tour guide.

There is nothing new about pre-recorded audio tours. Museums everywhere have them and so do many cities around the world. But Detour brings walking tours into the Twenty First Century.

For example, a group of people will be able to sync the same tour over multiple mobile devices by way of Bluetooth. The GPS integration will eliminate the need for someone to select a different recording for different locations — the app will do this automatically.

The plan is also to offer more detailed and personalized guided tours from people who are experts on a certain area or who actually live there, including celebrities. For example, the San Francisco tour will feature Grateful Dead lyricist John Perry Barlow talking about his favorite restaurants and radio host Ninna Gaensler-Debs describing the North Beach and Chinatown neighborhoods.

Detour is currently producing its own tours, but expects to allow third parties to eventually create content for the service. Also, after the beta testing is complete in San Francisco, Mason expects to add a new location to the service at the rate of about one per week.

In referring to the multibillion dollar annual guided tour industry, Mason told Bloomberg that, “People have an enormous hunger to have really compelling experiences in their cities.”

He founded Detour with another former Groupon exec Yishai Lerner. Mason says that the idea for the venture came when he and his wife took an audio guided walking tour of Rome in which they needed to share a pair of earphones connected to the same device.

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