Startup of the Week – Ulmon, the “secret” travel app that’s been downloaded eight million times

Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu

When we met Florian Kandler, cofounder of Austrian startup Ulmon, at Capital on Stage this year, one of the first things he told us was that his startup is one of the “most-downloaded travel apps no-one has ever heard of”. While the name Ulmon was pretty foreign to us, when he mentioned the company’s flagship app, City Maps 2Go, our memories were jogged.

Ulmon has some new features and updates coming up in the next weeks – it’ll be launching new offline search technology, which is handy when you want to avoid big data fees while overseas. It’s also announcing a 5.0 version in the coming weeks – here’s a sneak peek of what the improved, 5.0 map of London looks like:


We caught up with Kandler to find out why they’re more concerned about building the best tech than spending on marketing and why Ulmon has a competitive edge over the old-school players…

Hi Florian, can you tell us more about Ulmon?

width="90"Ulmon is a travel utility – we’ve made a number of travel apps including guides and maps for 6,700 destinations worldwide. Our iOS and Android apps have now been downloaded eight million times. The reason they are so popular is because we focus on the traveller – so we focus on the main issues travellers have when they’re on the road, for example organising the trip, finding their way around and information about their destination. We offer a simple solution by packaging that into very easy-to-use apps and we focus on making sure everything works, regardless of whether you’re online or offline. Users can download maps and travel guides on their smartphones and tablets to avoid data roaming charges.

Users can also plan their trips by making to-do lists of attractions and bars, for example, and put a pin on the map to remind themselves they want to go there, plus attach personal notes. It lets you find interesting places near you, with the points of interest ordered in easily searchable categories.

Part of the reason people might not know Ulmon is because we don’t spend money on PR agencies, we are hardcore techies and want to build the best product rather than focus on marketing.

What inspired you to work on Ulmon?

Three years ago, while travelling, we found there was no real solution on the market for good travel aides – the main option was using paper guides, maps or printouts and organising your trip that way. We started to search for solutions and the smartphone was just becoming a powerful travel utility at the time.

It seemed like we could really fill a niche that was missing – it was a lucky coincidence, we faced a problem that was one of our favourite hobbies and combined it with mobile tech, which happened to also be one of our favourite things.


What were you doing before?

We have three cofounders – I’m the CMO, there’s Tymon Wiedemair, who is in charge of product and then our hardcore techie is Gerald Ledermüller. I previously worked in a venture-funded startup and had a team of engineers under me – I basically was with the startup as it went from a three-person company to a 48-person company, I moved on because I wanted to do my own thing. Tymon and I met in university and we met Gerald in previous jobs.

Anything you need for your startup? 

We are growing our small team – we are looking for people who are passionate about startups and working in a non-corporate environment. The team is key – we’re mostly looking for product people, like engineers, designers and managers.

What’s your business model?

CityMaps2Go is a premium app and we also have an inner purchase where you can turn the app into a global guide, rather than just one city, with access to information for all over the world. From day one we were making revenue.

Have you received funding?

We’ve been bootstrapping to date. At the moment we are really focused on executing our plans, so we’re working on rolling out important updates for the peak summer travel season, rather than searching for funding.

How are you differentiating yourself from your competitors?

There are a couple of old school players coming from the web – like Lonely Planet and Trip Advisor. When we look at them, we’re different because we’re mobile first and we focus on providing a utility for while you’re travelling. We have a maps-centric approach. There are a number of competitors in the mobile area, but again, we focus on perfecting the map and orientation feature more than anything else, which is very important because when you travel, knowing your location and the sights are the most important points of references. That’s well done in our app, we strongly believe.

Any advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs?

Stay persistent and don’t pivot too fast. Make sure you keep your focus too!

Image credits
Machu Picchu: Flickr user szeke 

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