We, at e27, believe in Asia’s startups. As such, we value their insights about the ecosystem, put the spotlight on their contributions to their industries, and celebrate the wins that they have.

This community spotlight is trained on Explorest, a location and photo-scouting app curated by professional photographers. We got to chat with Justin Myers, Co-founder and CEO, about his thoughts after the launch, why they chose Singapore, and how not having a product to show led to the creation of a mutually beneficial business model.

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On what Explorest is about

Explorest is an app built to help travelers discover, access, and photograph the world’s most beautiful places. We have a curated group of professional photographers we call Explorests contributing to the app and providing insider ‘Location Insights’ that includes everything from precise GPS coordinates, recommended visit times, and even the photo settings used in the digital image.

On how the idea of Explorest came about

My co-founder, Michael Lax, is a photographer and when he travels he’s always looking for beautiful locations to shoot. But what happens is he spends way too much time and effort trying to find where these spots are. Even myself, who considers photography a hobby, also goes through this. We spend so much time asking around or looking at maps, experiencing the pain points of trying to find these spots to shoot.

And it’s not just photographers. Travelers who want to go to beautiful places spend a lot of time asking around and then sometimes completely miss the place or the “golden hour” where the views are perfect. So we created Explorest both out of a shared interest in photography and an opportunity brought by the fact that travel is growing at an exponential rate globally.

On why they chose Singapore for initial launch

We chose Singapore because we wanted to work at a much smaller scale before going global. So, with its passionate photography community and a small geography, we were actually able to get full coverage in terms of Photo Location Insights.

In terms of testing the business model, Singapore is an excellent site because of its high GDP and big economic market both domestically and internationally, with people accustom to in-app purchases. In essence it replicates western countries that we will be moving to next. It is also very IOS-friendly.

Given that we wanted to start with IOS, and to first understand the economic market, we thought Singapore was an excellent place to start.

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On the biggest challenge leading to launch

At the beginning when we didn’t have a product, we only had the idea and designs to show. The hardest challenge was to inspire the professional photographers to partner with us despite not having a proven business concept or app to play with. Nonetheless, we were able to partner with a fantastic group of photographers who had confidence that we can build the right product that could represent the Explorests.

On Singapore’s photography community

We noticed that the photography and Instagram communities are so vibrant – so many photographers at different skill levels willing to explore together. Their photographer profiles are well-curated and Instagram stories are well thought out – one of the most creative communities on the planet, I’d say! While Singapore is very photographable, they have been able to put their own flair in showcasing the country’s architecture and cityscape.

On choosing the Explorests

We strive to maintain a premium catalog of Location Insights to best serve our community with the most beautiful places to explore. Our contributing photographers – called Explorests – spend countless hours exploring our world and are very talented. A photographer can become an Explorest by invitation or application.

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On building a mutually beneficial relationship with their Explorests

We have a subscription based business model. In order to unlock all the app’s Location Insights, users pay a subscription fee. This fee is shared with the contributing photographers; 50 per cent of the app’s subscription revenue every month goes to the Explorests and enables them to earn passive income.

We want to empower photographers to keep exploring and do the work they love while inspiring so many others to do the same.

On thoughts after the launch

We set high targets and had high expectations but the results greatly exceeded expectations. I’m proud of our entire company and the Singaporean photographers for who made a successful launch possible. We have people asking to contribute locations from around the world, over a hundred submissions of where we should go next. There’s a lot of excitement and we’re so excited to act on it.

On where Explorest is heading next

Our next priority country to build the photo location database is the United States, starting with California. But our database will continue to organically expand in Asia and into Europe.

Explorest is available for download at the App Store

Got questions for Justin or Explorest? Let us know!

Explorest is digital location scout app that allows users to access a database of photo locations curated by local photographers who have insider knowledge about the area. The app provides not only the exact GPS coordinates but insights from the photographer on how to get there as well. A real-time weather feature for the locations is also integrated in Explorest. Apart from directions on getting there, Explorest also provides insider information such as best times to visit, best hours for specific types of photos, as well as technical and compositional tips from photographers.