Every week, the Soukie Speaks’ Club Courage series celebrates a brave entrepreneur in the Arab startup ecosystem, by sharing their story and the impact that their startup is having on the community. This week I interviewed Hannah Macdonald, the founder of the Citispi app.
1) Tell us a little about yourself, your educational background and how you got into entrepreneurship.
I established CitiSpi in September 2014, after noticing a shift in how people socialized in the city. It became apparent that I, along with many others, was spending more time and effort trying to find something to do, deciding where to go and arranging when to meet, rather than enjoying time with friends.
Initially, I shared hotel and restaurant offers and promotions with my family and friends via Facebook, and they loved it. From there, the demand for my social guidance grew, as did the community of CitiSpi followers.
So, I set about creating a new city guide and social planning app that would allow people to discover more of Dubai without breaking the budget. As part of this, I also started organizing social get-togethers for ‘Working Women’ and ‘Ladies that Lunch’, which were an instant hit!
CitiSpi is all about making socialising more accessible, more exciting, and more affordable for everyone, and after two years of research and development, CitiSpi, along with our CitiSpi app, officially launched in September 2016.
Prior to CitiSpi, I worked in the commercial real estate sector, specializing in retail and the food and beverage sector with Al Futtaim Real Estate, Al Shaya and CBRE in Dubai, and Jones Lang La Salle in Singapore.
2. What is CitiSpi and what can users expect from it (If you could also explain the name that would be great!)?
Being able to support Dubai’s residents and visitors in ‘socialising smarter’ is at the core of CitiSpi’s DNA – ensuring that through the CitiSpi city guide and social planning app, people can spend less time searching for an activity or venue. In fact, that was the inspiration behind the idea, with our passionate team of “spies” finding all the wonderful places to go and things to do in the energetic city we call home, so that our customers can enjoy more time socialising in Dubai.
The website, live get-togethers and app, which features location, price range and timing filters, as well as direct contact and sharing options, offers users a 360-degree solution and facilitates discovery of the region’s top independent venues, 5-star and quality 4-star hotels, as well as free attractions. CitiSpi’s unique GPS functionality enables user to find the best venue within 10 minutes of their current location.
The CitiSpi app is available on both Android and iPhone, and ongoing development will see the addition of “join with a friend” functionality which supports users in organising their social agenda. In addition, CitiSpi is delivering new functionality to support clients in operating a prosperous business.
3. The concept of bargain hunting websites and apps in the UAE is quite popular, so how does CitiSpi stand out in a crowded market?
While there are several food and beverage-based ‘discount providers’ in the UAE, CitiSpi does not focus solely on promotions or deals, but instead offers a truly unique, 360-degree solution to researching, planning and enjoying a social gathering, with its social organizer app, blog, event listings and client access portal offering everything you need in one convenient location.
CitiSpi facilitates smarter socialising and provides an avenue for active social engagement – bringing together online and offline engagement. For member clients, CitiSpi provides a refreshing approach to marketing and promoting their business, and looks for opportunities to partner with clients to host events and social engagements that truly represent client brands.
4. Who is your target audience and why?
CitiSpi promotes exclusive offers and hosts social get-togethers to encourage visitors, Dubai newbies and seasoned residents alike to meet and explore new places, together. Combining online discovery with offline socialising to bring together like-minded people – from breakfasts and afternoon teas to culinary workshops and social nights out – CitiSpi clients also benefit from CitiSpi’s business intelligence dashboard, which enables them to inform marketing activities to attract new business.
5. When it comes to enjoying what Dubai has to offer, what do you think are the 3 most common misconceptions that people have?
Firstly, people often think that they must travel some distance to get to a great restaurant or activity, which simply isn’t the case. Across Dubai, there are some fabulous activities and special offers that are right on your doorstep, close to home.
Another common misconception is that socialising and entertaining is expensive. However, there are some great offers and promotions out there – you just need to know where to look!
Finally, many of us come to Dubai to expand our horizons and enjoy everything that this wonderful city has to offer. But for many, finding places to go and things to do seems daunting. The reality though, couldn’t be further from the truth. There are some fabulous operators throughout Dubai and our spies have found them.
6. How does the “CitiSpi experience” address these misconceptions and optimize the socializing experience?
The CitiSpi app helps you discover not only the exclusive offers, but also promotions that are available directly from venues across Dubai, without the need for any vouchers or pre-registrations. In parallel to the app, CitiSpi also hosts regular social get-togethers to encourage seasoned residents and newbies alike to explore new places, try new things and meet new friends.
CitiSpi is Dubai’s most exciting new city guide and social planning app that allows you to discover more of Dubai without breaking the budget. We list promotions and offers available at 5-star hotels and top notch independent venues, as well as the must-sees and free stuff that both residents and visitors can enjoy in Dubai.
7. Can local businesses apply to become a part of the “CitiSpi experience?” If so, what is the process?
Absolutely. CitiSpi is a wonderful business partner and we’d love for Dubai’s local businesses to become part of CitiSpi’s success story and help their brand leverage from our 360-degree platform to attract Dubai’s residents and visitors.
To find out more about promoting exclusive offers and hosting social get-togethers shoot us an email here. We’d love to discuss our refreshing approach to smart socializing with you!
8. What project(s) is CitiSpi working on currently and how would you like to see the startup grow?
Soon our users will be able to enjoy CitiSpi Gold exclusive promotions, as well as the very clever “tell a friend” function, which essentially allows users to organise a social event with your friends, directly through the CitiSpi app.
9. How can people learn more about you and your project(s)?
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