Hi again, Drew here, co-founder of Horizon…
Remember when you found Horizon App and discovered a way to connect members of communities around the globe? We, the Horizon team, envisioned a new way to travel — one that would facilitate homestays among friends, friends of friends, and communities, such as the Peace Corps and StartingBloc. We are on a mission to make travel accessible, make it more personal for you, and give you a way to form deeper connections in each destination you visit.
It’s been an incredible, challenging, and humbling journey. And yes, we’re still here. Horizon exists, but it needs you more than ever. Four years ago, we joined Start-up Chile with a private hospitality networks concept and a small team. We overcame many challenges in those early years, and now, many thousands of dollars poorer, I’m still here.
Years later, you might wonder: Why do I even think Horizon is still a good, viable idea? Does Horizon need to exist at all?
I wonder that, too. Every day bringing new hurdles and challenges, setbacks, and requiring more time and money, I ask myself that question.
Even as the challenges stack up, and the money runs dry. The answer is a resounding yes.
Yes, the world needs what Horizon provides. We need travels involving deep conversations, fascinating new friendships, challenging perspectives, and ways to not just see the world, but experience it through our own eyes. We need more community to counter growing divisiness and isolation.
The need for a platform like Horizon facilitating global communities coming together in person comes down to the importance of humans understanding the reality of the vast world in which we live. It comes down to the importance of traveling in a way that contextualizes our place on a wider scale — understanding that “necessities” such as shoes and electricity are extreme luxuries to much of the world’s population.
Chance is the only thing separating you from someone born into extreme poverty.
It’s this very fact of chance that I know we can address through conscious travel — travel that pairs connected, immersive local travels with a powerful mission to funnel tourism dollars into pressing local social issues. Connecting travelers to the realities on the ground opens entirely new avenues to become the type of engaged and informed citizens we need: Citizens committed to spending their tourism dollars in ways that make a real impact on local communities.
The Road Building to Horizon
After graduating college and backpacking Europe in 2005, I haven’t been able to kick my unabiding love for travel. After using all of my vacation days to travel as widely as possible, I left “startup” America in 2010 to travel full time.
As is the case with traveling, I would meet all sorts of amazing people around the globe in those years on the road and I would learn from them all, be they rich or poor, Russian, Alaskan, or Kiwi. When I returned home, friends and relatives asked me how I did it — the implied question being how they might do the same. After hundreds of conversations, I came to realize the reason why more people don’t travel. It wasn’t just time and wasn’t not just about the money. While those were certainly factors, the underlying thread in every conversation was fear.
We fear that which we don’t know, and that seemed to be the key to unlocking a more powerful way for people to travel. We would build a hospitality exchange network based on existing interests — existing connections and passions. But we wouldn’t stop there, we would help travelers truly connect to the social causes impacting the places they travel, and we would do it by baking our social mission into the very core of our platform.
- Acceptance in Startup Chile, and a demo day pitch (you can view it here).
- We launched publicly in 2015, first on Product Hunt, and then publicly on the app store a couple months later.
- Despite running the business in the red on a monthly basis for more months in a row than I can count, we’ve grown to over 13,000 members — our mission clearly resonates deeply with travelers.
- The native Android app was well-received.
- Our current Stay a Night, Give a Night Campaign launched in Seattle, with two completed stays in our pilot. Our campaign is bringing much-needed money and attention to Seattle’s serious homelessness situation.
- Members of major communities such as Peace Corps, StartingBloc, and Product Hunt have joined Horizon, and several sponsors such as Avail, CityBldr, R6 Ventures, Susi Musi & Co Real Estate, Wikileaf, and WealthSimple have partnered on our latest campaign.
- We’ve lost money. A lot of money. I’m personally very far in debt as a result of Horizon.
- We lost core team members who had to move on due to life and financial realities.
- We failed at our fundraising effort in late 2014 and early 2015.
- The need to scrap both our native iOS and Android apps (for the time being) when Facebook changed a few APIs and broke our login system.
Every passing day I increasingly believe Horizon’s platform is needed. I’m not interested in living in the world shaped by screen addiction spreading unopposed. That’s a soulless, lonely world. We needed Horizon back in 2014, but we could have never foreseen what four short years would bring — we need Horizon now more than ever. Screen addiction is at all time high. Empathy is at all time low.
The world needs community more than anything if we are to overcome our challenges. People need to live within other reality bubbles.
The Reality of the Current Home Sharing and Hospitality Exchange Landscape (Hint: It’s Not About Community)
You may point to Couchsurfing and Airbnb as platforms addressing this every issue, but they both fall well short. I’ve said it before, Couchsurfing was one of the coolest social movements created in my lifetime. It enabled millions of budget travelers to take trips they otherwise might have never taken. That said, the world is bigger than one community. We need to build community around shared ideals of not just budget travel, but of travel that changes the way we see the world and how we make an impact.
Airbnb’s early business was “paid couchsurfing,” but these days it’s not really that at all. More than 10 years later, the majority of Airbnb’s business comes from renting entire apartments, homes, yachts, etc., and travelers never even meet their host. With its recent support for boutique hotels and traditional bed and breakfasts, it’s moving farther away from its “community” roots , not closer. The Airbnb “business” is monetizing space, not building community. Which is fine, but it’s missing the chance to form real community connections on our travels.
When we remove connection and community from the equation, we lose a very real piece of what has always made travel so transformational. Horizon is the antidote, it’s the platform where community is not an afterthought: it’s the whole damn point.
Where Horizon is Heading
Horizon removes technology challenges from the world’s greatest communities: Harley riders, Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, bicyclists, and more. These groups already share a strong sense of belonging, so we asked ourselves: What would it look like to build the world’s best global hospitality exchange platform? How could we facilitate existing communities rather than build a new one? Rather than building an entire technology platform (both extremely expensive and time consuming), what if these communities could simply click a button and pay a small monthly fee? What if creating a hospitality exchange network to connect your community was as easy as starting a Meetup group?
There doesn’t have to be a what-if, because Horizon is how we’re keeping you connected to the communities you care about, connected to the causes and people who have made your life better.
But we need your help. A member-funded route is the only way we can continue to build community in the physical world. That’s why we’re asking for your support on Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows you to support the creatives and creators you believe in.
Do you believe the world needs a community-funded (and ad-free) hospitality exchange platform focused on facilitating true community, empathy and not just “transactions”? A platform that believes in creating real change in local communities through socially responsible initiatives? We need your financial help to continue improving Horizon’s product and unlock travel opportunities to grow our community of global citizens.
I believe there are 15,000 people in the world willing to give up the equivalent of one cup of coffee per month to keep a community-funded and community-owned hospitality exchange platform alive. With Patreon, you choose your level of support, whether that is $10 per month or just $60 a year. Horizon is, quite simply, the best community building tool that’s ever been created. It’s a tool empowering distributed communities to come together in person, strengthen relationships through meaningful real-world interactions, to make a real difference in your life, as well as the lives of those in each place you travel.
Our community is already 13,000 strong. Now we need you to join us on the next step as we transform the way travelers experience cities and countries around the globe. Join us as we build empathy.
This is our big ask. Horizon needs its community’s support and no donation is too small. Make a monthly pledge now. And if you really love what we’re working on, but can’t contribute even $5 per month, we gratefully welcome your one-time contribution here.
I have never wavered in my belief that there is a better way for us to understand the world. Understanding comes through real-world experiences, not screens. Horizon will transform how we live and travel, and we need your help to continue making that mission a reality.
Thank you for your generous support,