Being a woman and loving the feeling of discovery and encounter that travel brings, we often choose what is called “couch surfing” as an accommodation solution.
Couch surfing lets a traveler stay for free with a host and allows a host to share his/her culture during a short and free stay.
The advantages of this concept are numerous: saving money on travel expenses, meeting local people, living an authentic experience, making friends with people from all over the world, broadening cultural horizons, etc.
Couch surfing regroups several millions of enthusiasts around the world. However, couch surfing also has its drawbacks, and this is what led Pauline André to create GlobeSisters in her last year of master’s studies at Berkeley.
Used to “hospitality platforms” since her childhood, Pauline and her parents have hosted many international travelers in their home, as a way to discover the world without boarding a plane. It is quite naturally that as a young adult, Pauline used a couch surfing platform for her first international trips, to ensure an experience that met her expectations, her budget, and her childhood memories.
She left for Peru for the first time when she was 17 years old. As the experience was so positive, she decided to repeat the same thing three years later, in 2020 and left for a six-month cycling trip in Chile and Bolivia.
And this is where she met the limits of the system as a woman traveling alone.
Her first host, with whom the previous conversations on the platform had been normal, turns out to be a predator and… attempts to kidnap her! Fearless and endowed with the instinct of survival, she escapes by the window. After regaining her composure, she contacts several young females on the platform, including those who had left decent comments on the profile of the host in question.
She discovers that the market-leading platform she used, operates like many on a peer-to-peer review system, and doesn’t verify much of anything. In reality, the host was putting pressure on his “victims”, by threatening to report them to the platform in case of negative reviews and therefore prevent them from continuing their trip.
But Pauline doesn’t intend to stop there and is determined to better understand this business to make it more reliable. It is during the last year of her master’s degree at Berkeley that the idea of GlobeSisters was born. She then conducted a survey of over 300 young women to better assess their expectations.
In parallel, she meets Pierre-Alexandre Speisser who is seduced by the idea and joins her in the adventure. They both applied and joined the SkyDeck program of the StEP incubator, restricted to Berkeley students, to flesh out their project in 2022.
This phase allows them to recruit a semi-permanent team to develop and code the app, which is now called Globe Sisters. It is now available on mobile (iOs and Android). Today, GlobeSisters has a community of over 1000 members who have completed more than 200 trips. Most of the GlobeSisters are located in the United States, particularly in California, where growth was initially organic.
Following a story on the TV channel M6, a certain number of French women signed up on the app to travel to the United States.
In a market of an estimated 14 million couch surfers, 35 to 40% are women. Today, the typical Globe Sister is a woman between 21 and 35 years old, traveling alone or with a partner. A new feature also allows women to travel with a child as long as the child is under 14 years old.
How does it work?
- After downloading the app for free, whether you are a traveler or a host, you just have to create a profile with your criteria and preferences
- The identity of each user is verified via an in-house service
- The app connects hosts with travelers matching the same criteria
- Only the user who is looking for accommodation pays
- Two subscription levels: monthly ($50) for the period of time you wish to travel, or yearly ($220) for the ones who are on the go
GlobeSisters intends to make a difference in this market by putting in place several levels of security to reduce risk: a reporting system, a moderation system and a rating system.
Another of GlobeSisters’ strengths is its authentic and community-based aspect. In order to do activities with your host and live like a local, it is important to be immersed.
So beyond the established market of couch surfers, the goal is to convert female travelers who usually stay in hostels where they often find themselves with travelers from all over the world, including their own country and not necessarily the country they are visiting.
In order to develop a community spirit, the idea is also to organize GlobeSisters events where participants meet for a picnic, an aperitif, etc. to exchange ideas.
According to GlobeSisters’ data, the trend of young women traveling alone is on the rise, but the problem is that existing couch-surfing platforms hardly check profiles and women feel safer staying with a woman.
This is the true lack of security and control that the platform wants to address.
GlobeSisters is planning to raise funds between March and April, they would love to have women among their investors.