Lonely Planet’s Mobile Travel Startup Launches, With Content From Rivals

Lonely Planet’s new San Francisco-based mobile startup has gone live with its flagship mobile travel guide app Wenzani, which paidContent first reported about in September.

Wenzani is an iPhone app comprising restaurant, going-on, activity and other recommendations from content partners, as well as an ability to tap users’ social contacts for the same kinds of info.

That content comes from Lonely Planet and its owner BBC Worldwide’s BBC Travel, plus third parties *Time* Out, Frommer’s Travel and Wcities. “Although usually considered competitors, we have joined forces to do something unique and give our users the most comprehensive guide possible,” according to Wenzani’s blog.

BBC Worldwide tells paidContent: “Lonely Planet is the only equity holder. Time (NYSE: TWX) Out, Frommer’s Travel and Wcities are content partners only.

Development has wholly funded by Lonely Planet and there hasn’t been any investment from outside Lonely Planet.”

The firm is led by Textingly online SMS startup founder Jenny Fielding as CEO. In September, Lonely Planet CEO Matt Goldberg said he would attract executive talent to Wenzani using equity, in startup fashion.

BBCWW did not confirm whether those publishers are providing content on a commercial basis. “With today’s launch, we’ve offered the publishers an opportunity to get their brand and content in front or an array of consumers,” a spokesperson said. “Later iterations will also include monetization opportunities, from which our partners will share revenue.”

To minimise the effect of international conversion to and from the high dollar in Australia where it is based, Lonely Planet recently relocated its web team out of Australia to sit alongside BBC Worldwide in London, has its mobile team in Oakland, California, but retains its print publishing business Down Under.

CEO Matt Goldberg told paidContent in September: “By doing this as an independent company, we can invite those around the travel space to join us without feeling any compunction. Innovation requires restless experimentation. It’s something that requires a particular cultural mindset.”

However, for the product itself, Wenzani has parked itself in the social mobile restaurant and travel recommendations already occupied by peers, even including Foursquare, to which The Financial Times has also just begun feeding its UK and New York restaurant reviews.

Introducing Wenzani from Wenzani on Vimeo.