From a background in finance, Barcelona-based Francisco Pujals took a leap and started Coolmapp, a city guide app for iPhones. The first Coolmapp city guide was launched in early 2017 with Barcelona as its first city. Guides for Amsterdam, London and Kuala Lumpur followed. The guide focuses in presenting great design through the eyes of local curators, hoping to inspire like-minded travellers.
Tell us more about yourself.
I’m Francisco Pujals, founder of Coolmapp, a new brand of city guides for iPhone curated by inspiring and trendsetting locals. I was born and raised in Barcelona and I had been working in finance until I combined my three passions - travel, design and technology - to create Coolmapp.
What’s Coolmapp and why did you create it?
A few years ago, I spent a summer in New York with my girlfriend because she was attending an English course. We picked New York - despite the fact both of us had been there before - because we knew it was an incredible city with lots of amazing experiences far from the touristic routes. While she was at her English lessons, I spent my mornings looking for out-of-the-ordinary experiences we both love. For example, places with amazing interior design, fantastic food, or inspiring founders. We were able to begin our days in the best cafés in New York, discover amazing restaurants, attend secret events, etc. One of my favourite moments was watching a film for free lying on the grass of a Brooklyn park with the Manhattan skyline before us. That is exactly how we love to travel, but we were surprised there were no guides offering that kind of advice. That’s why I decided to create Coolmapp City Guides, as a way to share the coolest things in any city with like-minded travellers. As for the name, I wanted it to be something that combined both the ideas of a map of everything cool and an app - so Coolmapp it is!
You are located in Barcelona, one of the hippest cities in Europe. How does the city influence and inspire you at Coolmapp?
I am from Barcelona and it’s an amazing time to live in this city. It has always attracted a lot of creative people and you can find inspiring art and design everywhere. However, recently it has also become a technological and entrepreneurial hub and a lot of international people with amazing talents are making Barcelona their new home. This mixture of talents in the same city allows for the existence of amazing projects. For example, Coolmapp was created thanks to the talents of people from Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy working together with Barcelona locals.
What’s the biggest ethos for the Coolmapp team? Do you foresee Coolmapp as a new way for travellers to explore cities?
Our ethos is to inspire like-minded travelers who love design and out-of-the-ordinary experiences, and give them the best advice - exactly when they need it. That’s why, first, we worked for years on the design of our app. It paid off, because it was just awarded the Silver LAUS Design Award. Secondly, we’re always looking for those inspiring people that know all the best things in their city. The secrets they share are amazing – like sleeping inside a beautiful design store, tasting specialty coffee served from a vintage van, and having dinner in a restaurant at a beautiful greenhouse. Our users also love our guides are in the form of an app, instead of books, because they are always updated. They can find the advice they need at any moment wherever they are. As a travel entrepreneurs, do you (and your team) constantly travel for new inspiration? How often do you travel and where do you usually go? To be honest, all of us usually invest all our holidays and savings into travelling. Every time we begin working on a new guide and we see the amazing experiences our local experts are recommending, we’d want to travel to that city as soon as possible. Personally, I used to travel as far and as long as possible, but since having kids I am more focused on discovering the Mediterranean.
Coolmapp has released Barcelona, Amsterdam and (soon) Kuala Lumpur city guides. What’s next?
We are currently working on the Prague city guide, and the guides for New York, London and Paris will follow in a couple of months. Since we pay attention to every detail, it takes us time to complete the creation of a new guide. Nevertheless, we look forward to being able to provide guides for every main city very soon.
What are the processes involved in selecting a city (for your guide)? What about the criteria you look for in a curator? Any special guideline and content you look at before starting on a new city?
Imagine, while you’re on holiday, you get to meet the coolest person in the city you’re visiting. Because that person has such amazing taste, you trust everywhere they recommend is going to be exactly what you want. That’s what we’re trying to capture at Coolmapp, by giving our users a window into the hidden cool spots of a city. This is why, we choose our curators before choosing the city. We look everywhere on social media (especially Instagram, because it’s so visual). When we find like-minded people with the same style and sensibilities as our users, we ask them to work with us.
Have you ever thought of having Coolmapp turned into print? Actually, we love all the advantages of having a travel guide as an app. You’d always find updated information, and if you didn’t plan ahead, it’s easy to just pull your phone out and see what’s around you. However, we have often discussed the possibility of creating an independent magazine to share the great stories of the amazing founders behind all the places we recommend.
How does the daily routine at Coolmapp look like? We usually begin the journey in a nearby café, brainstorming ideas while we fuel up with the best coffee. Once in the office, every day is different, but you can usually find us in the middle of Skype meetings, emails and new city guides. I work until about 7pm, after which I love spending time with my kids until they fall asleep. A couple days a week, I meet friends to play padel, discover new restaurants or attend creative events.
If you have to choose, what’s your favourite city/country? Why? If you know where to look, I actually believe every city has the potential to be the best. However, if I have to pick one - and you are going to love this - I always recommend discovering Southeast Asia, thanks to its unique mixture of modern cities, tropical islands (paradise beaches), tasty food and really nice people!
What do you think makes Barcelona special compared to the other cities in Spain?
Barcelona is probably the most international city in Spain. Not only in regards of tourism, but also for all the amazing new projects going on, and especially the people doing them. As I mentioned, so many people choose Barcelona as their new home, bringing along their cultures and ideas. For example, as we were putting together the Barcelona guide, we realised how some of our coolest hotspots were founded by foreign innovators, with their concepts coming from all over the world.
What’s your opinion on the independent print industry in Barcelona? What’s your favourite title?
I find independent magazines really inspiring and at Coolmapp, we love the ones talking about travel & lifestyle, so we have several of them in the office. Of all of the Barcelona independent magazines, my favourite is probably Openhouse, which talks about creative people around the world who open their homes to the public for different activities. Their photography and interviews are amazing. We recommend one of the Openhouse founders’ homes as an apartment for rent in our Barcelona guide. Other remarkable examples are Perdiz (on things that make people happy), Lamono (art & culture), Apartamento (everyday life interiors magazine) or Agapornis (on companion animals).
How is Barcelona different from season to season? Have you ever thought of having your city guide curated seasonally? The big difference is that with the good weather, you can really take advantage of all the amazing things happening outdoors. Since Coolmapp is in app form, it’s updated constantly and it naturally follows the seasonal trends in Barcelona. For example, right now, you can find a lot of outdoor and summer events in our guides, like going to an open air movie showing, attending boat outings, or losing yourself in markets with food trucks and music.
What’s your future plan for Coolmapp? We want to inspire like-minded travellers worldwide, so, now we’re focused on bringing Coolmapp to all the main cities in the world. We are eager to meet the cool friends and see the amazing places we will discover in the process.
This interview appeared in Home Issue. To continue reading, you can buy print or digital.