Backstreet Academy

Backstreet Academy: A peer-to-peer impact travel platform for developing countries

Singapore, SingaporePhnom Penh, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Year Founded:
2014
Organization type: 
hybrid
Project Stage:
Growth
Budget: 
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Backstreet Academy is a peer-to-peer impact travel platform for developing countries.People in poverty, without access to technology or English can use our web platform to create & offer travel experiences to tourists directly,earning extra income, exposure & hospitality training.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if everyone in poverty can immediately become entrepreneurs, gain income and exposure by creating unique travel experiences for tourists?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

A billion people still live under the poverty line and tourism is one way many of these people are trying to make a living from. They are however unable to due to the mistrust, scams, lack of education & technology. The disappearance of arts, tradition and culture is another problem as youth search for better paying prospects elsewhere, leaving them behind.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our web platform allows anyone to be able to create and sell a tour or activity to tourists, even without education or access to technology - made possible by our local call centres & translator network. People in impoverished communities can now join our program to be trained on creating a tour activity - whether it's a wood carving class or a city tour. Just by doing so, they can earn more than 2-3 times their income with only 4-5 additional hours per week. The training in English, hospitality and exposure to tourists also helps in confidence & capacity building. Arts and culture are also enjoy an elevated status as they now earn more, and tourists are in awe of their skills, attracting more youth to preserve the craft by learning it.

Awards

Singapore International Foundation Young Social Entrepreneur Award, Outstanding Social Enterprise by Asia Centre for Social Entrepreneurship & Philathrophy, Nomination for UN-Habitat Youth innovation and entrepreneurship award
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

We work with NGOs & craft associations to find beneficiaries,and we shortlist 40-50 with the supporting NGO's help,we will proceed to train and create tour activities for them.They will then be connected to our local translator network and call centre where they can then be self sustainable running their own activity thereafter.Every week they will receive bookings from travelers visiting our website through our marketing efforts and earn enough to increase their income by 2-3 times.An unemployed 86 year old Hmong villager who used to be a veteran hunter now teaches tourists his craft of crossbow and bow crafting,not only earning income at an old age and sending his grandchildren to school,he also enjoys immense respect from his students.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

In terms of numbers: - Training, capacity building & creation of over 400 micro-entrepreneurs in tourism with the means to increase their income 2-3 times by teaching tourists their own tradition, cultures and skills - Training & job opportunities for >500 student translators looking for part time income & English practice - Generated >S$50,000 in extra income for the beneficiaries in 1.5 years - Helped support, increase awareness & appreciation for over 300 traditional crafts and traditions, such as Khmer boxing, apsara dance, knife making, mekong net-fishing, wine-making, carving etc Our intended future impact is to scale to all developing countries and create over 10,000 micro entrepreneurs in the next 5 years, move them and their families out of poverty, conserve & generate appreciation for the key traditions, cultures and skills of each community through unique P2P tourism.

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

We expanded from 1 city to 10 countries and 40 cities in 1.5 years.We have a good scaling model using launchers to rapidly move into a city and hire local staff to set up operations in a similar fashion.We will complete the rest of Southeast Asia similarly before working on a franchise model for local NGOs to adopt in other regions while using our web infrastructure to rapidly create and bring to market these unique travel experiences with sustainable impact.We have also signed partnerships with tour operators like Expedia,STA & Diethelm to propagate the concept & distribute our products.
Sustainability

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

Our business model takes a commission of every transaction.Revenue is split fairly: 1)Host conducting activity takes 50-60% 2)Translator from tourism schools/universities practicing English takes 10-20% 3)Transport operators take 10-20% 4)Backstreet Academy takes the remainder (10-20%) Each new city only requires ~$500 in fixed costs for local staff and office sharing with NGOs (25 bookings to break even) We are already cash-flow positive.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Local NGOs and ecotravel-branded tour agencies offer similar activities, but the prices are usually much higher, not direct to the beneficiary and hyperlocal without scaling capabilities. They usually employ the person outright and take control of service quality, which leads to lower motivation from the host to ensure the best experience. Impact is also not easily scaled due to the employment model. Other peer-to-peer platforms also operate in this space but do not have any focus on social impact and are unable to work with people who cannot speak english or access technology.
Team

Founding Story

While working with many micro-entrepreneurs in our previous jobs at a micro-social venture fund, we were fascinated with the skills of these people and had a great time learning from them while working with them. After having numerous fun experiences carving wooden masks, painting, sewing, many friends were asking us how they could also sign up for these local and impactful activities. That sparked off an experiment where we started with pushing out 10 experiences on a quickly put together website. More and more people signed up, the hosts were reporting immense satisfaction and hugely increased income, and this egged us to properly develop the idea, infrastructure and scale to many cities.

Team

Jamon Mok, CEO (Singapore Management University, Finance BBM) - Co-Founded Gazaab Social Ventures, a micro social venture fund in Nepal and created over 200 entrepreneurs with the development of an in-house curriculum for village-based business plan competitions and investments. - Previously founded another game company which raised over $100,000 in funding and up to 18 in headcount. - Does overall design, digital marketing, SEO, SEM for Backstreet Academy in addition to CEO role. - Mediacorp Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 - Lee Kuan Yew Global Business Plan Competition Most promising entrepreneur - Ideas Inc Most socially impactful start-up Akash Gurung, CTO (Singapore Management University, Information Systems BBM) - Co-Founded Gazaab Social Ventures, a micro social venture fund in Nepal and created over 200 entrepreneurs with the development of an in-house curriculum for village-based business plan competitions and investments. - Handles Technology stack, project management, heads a team of 5 in technology. - Mediacorp Young Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 - Ideas Inc Most socially impactful start-up Anil Gurung, COO (Singapore Management University, Economics Bsc) - Worked 5 years as a strategy analyst at Vale, one of the largest iron producers in the world - Strong corporate background and business development capabilities, now in charge of partnerships, host acquisition, and daily operations. * All 3 co-founders above are full time, in addition to 6 full-time local staff in Nepal, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Angel Investors 1) Cheah Kim Lean: CEO, Acorn Marketing Group 2) Renato Henderson: Senior Marketing Manager, Vale 3) Tony Falso: HR Director, Macquarie Capital
Background
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Email

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

Founder & CEO

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

No Poverty, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Responsible Consumption and Production.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

- Gazaab Social Ventures - A micro social venture capital fund that conducts village based business plan competitions to seed and create social entrepreneurs in order to help create leaders who will bring their community out of poverty: www.gazaab.org
- Project Gazaab - The charity based predecessor of Gazaab social ventures, doing the same thing but instead of investments, gives out grants to winners of the village based business plan competitions. It is now the largest community expedition group in Singapore Management University with over 200 members and over 15 projects, helping to create over 200 micro entrepreneurs in Nepal, India, Thailand, Indonesia & Cambodia.
- Little Voice Games - A social game company building meaningful games with real world context. The first product is a city building game with real world buildings and information, functioning like a travel guide.
- Organised sky-diving trips in University

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

NGOs & Associations: Angkor Handicraft Association, Tlaitno Dance association, Khmer Life NGO, Khmer independent life team NGO, Lao disable women's association, Sovannaphum Arts Association, Sabah Nepal, Hamro Products, Changefusion Nepal, Umbrella Foundation, Women's Skill development Organisation, Rainbow Children house, TAEC, Alternatives Nepal and many more.
Travel Distributors: Expedia, Diethelm Travel, STA Travel, Stray Travel, Laos Mood, Journeys Within, EAsia Travel, Unique boutique Cambodia