Juan Castillo is a restless man, and like most entrepreneurs, he is constantly on the lookout for opportunities, although unlike many other entrepreneurs, he isn’t only interested in the bottom line, in the cash, but also in making the world a better place.
Born in La Roda Albacete in 1987, he came to Valencia to study architecture in 2005 and has lived here ever since, despite some time spent in Ljubljana, Slovenia, New York and San Francisco, and having visited 20 countries.
Having realised that there were too many architects for the market to absorb, Juan did what most entrepreneurs did, look for gaps in the market, whatever the field.
Adopting the American philosophy that it is better to have started up and failed than not to have loved at all, he began a series of life lessons, working eight days a week and many hard day’s nights launching projects that taught him the valuable value of failure, or at least limited success, in the seven businesses that he has managed to bring to fruition and seen fall from the trees.
From calculating structures to on-line cosmetic sales, passing through energy certificates, organising parties in Ibiza, on-line bookings, manufacturing electric motorbikes, software for architects and builders, Juan kept going, kept trying, kept innovating.
However, he was looking to invest his energy in a project of worldwide significance, which would also allow people in developing countries to make a little money by investing their enthusiasm and knowledge into explaining the places where they live, acting as tour guides but avoiding the robotic approach of the conveyor belt tour guide who can’t wait to get rid of one batch of tourists before moving on to the next.
And so he created Guruwalk.
It’s all about empowering people and breaking the monopoly of the ‘official guides’ who, because they have paid for a course believe that they have signed some kind of exclusivity deal, excluding anyone who just happens to love their city, knows a lot about some aspect of it and who could use some extra money.
Free walking tours are a concept that is designed to revitalise the world of the guided tour, offering something original, something interesting or amusing. They are the little corner shop compared to the behemoth megastore.
Guruwalk has also noted the increased interest in set-jetting, movie tourism, and already has two tours dedicated to the TV series Narcos, in Columbia, and Stranger Things in Jackson, Georgia. Apart from those tours, and after only a few months of work, they already have 370 tours up and working in 92 different locations.
Juan believes in the collaborative economy, not only as a way to generate income for people in developing countries, but also as a philosophical stand against a world where hate and violence could be overcome by getting to know our neighbours; tourism as a way of building bridges and avoiding conflicts.
Despite being based in Valencia, Guruwalk is a truly international project, operating in countries all around the globe but with a truly co-operative spirit, attempting to spread some wealth among the residents of some of the poorer countries of the world.
Starting off with only four staff, including the exotic element of a Belgian social media organiser, Bernard from Brussels, and ensconced in the UPV start up department, they have reached out to the world, and the world has reached back.
Juan was especially pleased when one Cuban guide shared some photos of a new born son.
So, how does it work? Over to Juan:
“We knew free walking tours are a great way to start your trip, and a crazy growing market. But mostly, we realized there are thousands of people around the world who would like to become guides and don’t have the resources to do so.
That’s why we started GuruWalk, and why our efforts are mostly in developing countries, where people can’t afford to make their own website, and pay the necessary marketing to attract customers.
On the other hand, travellers find it more difficult to find free walking tours in these remote countries. So, by doing this, we provide value to both sides of the marketplace.
The goal of GuruWalk is to become the leading platform for free walking tours all over the world. That’s why everybody can join, publish a tour, and become a guide on our site, completely for free. This website has no costs for the guide, nor for the traveller.
Once you have published it, you will start receiving bookings from travellers who want to join your guruwalk. After the tour, the travellers will give you a donation for your work, which could be a considerable amount of money with big groups.
A “Guruwalk”, also known as a “free walking tour”, is a guided tour around the main landmarks of a city, and is paid for by donations at the end.
The “free walking tour” concept is a little misleading. Because the word “free” is mostly associated with no cost at all. Which is not true. That’s why we prefer to call them ‘Guruwalks.”
So, if you know something interesting about your city and wouldn’t mind sharing it and making a little money too, check out Guruwalk: