When traveling in an unfamiliar place, it’s good to know where to find your next cup of coffee. Ditto for convenience stores, ATMs or supermarkets.
That’s the idea behind Sidekix, a navigation app that helps pedestrians figure out where to go in more than 100 cities worldwide.
Sidekix recommends stops along the way, in a variety of categories, to make walking routes more interesting and experiential, said Jenny Drezin, one of the founders and the chief marketing officer of Sidekix.
“There’s millions of points of data in the app,” said Drezin. “It’s a combination of web content, social media, bloggers…and the way it all works is because cities are so dynamic. We take from multiple sources, and we’re always cross-checking.”
In this app, it’s all about “curated lists,” said Drezin, clueing users into what’s best to see and do in various cities.
It’s still in the early stages, though.
Using Sidekix in my hometown of Jerusalem, where I’ve lived for the last 21 years, it was clear that certain obvious options were missing.
I pressed the coffee cup button on the Sidekix screen, looking for the cafe closest to my Jerusalem apartment. It found several, but not the two situated within a five- to 10-minute walk, both of which have been around for some time. And while it did list Tomer’s Bread, a local chain of artisanal bread bakeries, it pointed me to the branch furthest from my house, and not one of the two within easy walking distance.
That’s a weakness that Sidekix has to improve upon, said Drezin.
“It’s not going to show you everything around you,” she said. “Some places have better data than others, but we’re always improving.”
Tel Aviv, for instance, where Drezin and her partners live, is chock full of information, she said. Same for London, which was one of their pilot cities. New York City is a great test case, said Drezin, because it has the greatest number of Sidekix users.
A year after it launched, Sidekix is available in more than 100 cities worldwide, including Tel Aviv, New York, London, Rome, Barcelona, Boston, San Francisco, and new cities are added regularly.
“People travel a lot and move around a lot,” said Drezin, a former New Yorker now living in Tel Aviv. “You’re not going to use this in just one or two cities.”
The app will also offer self-guided tours in the future.
Still, there’s a limit to how underground and insider the information currently is for users. Sidekix is great in an unfamiliar city, as I found in Haifa, where I don’t know my way around as well, but may not have access to the lesser-known, hole-in-the-wall coffee bars or boutiques known by users who are familiar with their own urban surroundings.
I used it again in Tel Aviv when looking for a particular malabi stand, and later when seeking a popular watering hole for locals. It couldn’t help me with the malabi but it did send me to a great bar that I might not have found myself just strolling around the city.
Then again, when I looked for a recommendation for a good kosher restaurant in the primarily secular city of Tel Aviv, it had only three listings, one of which was in Holon, a neighboring town.
Users can also become information gatherers for the app, adding insider information about where to find the best coffee, restaurants or bookstores. The stops rated highest by users float to the top of the app.
The Sidekix revenue model revolves around special offers put on the app by vendors.
“Pedestrians are the best impulse consumers,” said Drezin. “It’s much easier to buy a cup of coffee when you’re walking by than when you’re in the car. What makes it interesting is that the navigation app tells us your state of mind. Location plus context makes a very strong model to offer special, personalized deals.”
The app started out a safety tool. Drezin’s background is in women’s empowerment and safety and she and her husband, aerospace engineer Miron Perel and another partner, Sidekix CTO Eli Baram, first came up with a crowdsourcing safety app to offer safer routes when walking in a city.
The app went through several iterations, highlighting streets that were well lit and had businesses open in the evening hours, which made for safer strolling. It ultimately didn’t work out as an app, but they gathered a plethora of useful data and algorithms.
“We realized we could just stop, or pivot the product into what it is today, a smart, walking navigational app,” said Drezin. “Nothing like this really existed because most navigation is utilitarian, and sometimes you want that, but you might want a more interesting route, particularly when you have free time in your own city, or when you’re traveling.”
Exploring the route less traveled may be the best method for using Sidekix. Users may find something new along tried-and-true routes in their own cities, but it’s more likely that when visiting a new city, you can “explore urban gems,” suggested Drezin.
Bottom line, said Drezin, the app is a great way to discover new places.