Wandure allows travellers to experience local culture. Photo: Courtesy of Wandure.
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App developer adds in Ottawa’s diversifying tech, entrepreneurial sectors

An app development company founded by University of Ottawa alumnus Ismail Benmbarak has launched their flagship project with plans for rapid expansion.

The app, Wandure, aims to connect travellers to experiences run by local hosts while providing savvy hobbyists and tour guides with an opportunity to profit off their unique skills.

The app allows users to pay for experiences run by locals in a destination city by using an Uber-like interface. Everything from canoe tutorials to Indigenous story walks is available to book.

“We started working around the end of 2016, at first it was just myself and one of my high school friends. We were just looking at what we could do, and wanted to start a business with our skill sets,” Benmbarak told the Fulcrum.

“He was a software engineer, and I was about to graduate, so the time seemed right.”

The team initially launched through the U of O’s Startup Garage. The program supports current students and recent graduates of the university in launching their business ideas with office space, advisors, and funding competitions—a program that is sorely needed in Ottawa’s growing entrepreneurial scene.

“I think that the University of Ottawa is doing a great job, and Startup Up Ottawa is doing a great job targeting early phase startups, but there are not too many options right now,” he said.

“There isn’t much around yet, but things are getting better. There is a lot of good ideas and good people in the city, but they need these programs to support them,” said Sai Vikranth Desu, a software developer with Wandure.

However a resource crunch did not slow Wandure down, as the team quickly secured additional funding from Startup Ottawa through a pitch competition while taking on new members.

“It has been easy finding people in Ottawa, the talent base is strong and people are hungry for work,” Benmbarak said.

“People love working for this early phase startups, everything you do is significant and we all kind of do everything because it is such a small team,” says Desu.

Wandure was also chosen to be featured in Creatorland—a video series by Ottawa-based serial entrepreneur Zainab Muse that highlights Ottawa’s diverse business owners and startups.

The app is currently available exclusively in Ottawa, but the team already has plans for expansion within Canada and internationally.
“So we are looking at expanding into Singapore … it’s a big city, with a lot of demand for this sort of thing, and with 40 million tourists it’s a prime target for us” Benmbarak said.

“2019 is going to be a big year for us … we feel like we are ready. The proof of concept has been accomplished, and now we are at a phase where we can really get it going.”

Wandure is available now on iOS and Android and will be expanding to Toronto and Montreal soon.