The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

« Previous Post | Technology Home | Next Post »

San Francisco start-up Skyara aims to be the Etsy, Airbnb, Meetup and Groupon of experiences

December 10, 2010 |  1:39 pm

Skyara wants to turn you into a weekend warrior. Or cappuccino maker. Or blogger. Or mountain biker.

Think of Skyara as a marketplace for experiences: Hatha yoga, making balloon animals, becoming "remarkable." (Seriously want to sign up for that one).

Skyara People can offer their services on Skyara's website, and if someone hires them for that service the site gets 12% of the transaction.

Right now Skyara is testing its business in San Francisco. Some of the listings include activities popular with tourists, such as walking tours of San Francisco architecture, Chinatown or the North Beach culinary scene. But there's also an Army Ranger who for $50 will train you in marksmanship or for $20 will get you into shape with Army fitness training (currently sold out, bummer). Aber Whitcomb, a MySpace co-founder, is offering trap and skeet shooting. You can also take lessons in extreme kiting and contact juggling.

Skyara was started by longtime pals Jonathan Wu and Dennis Liu. They were working in New York City in consulting jobs, dreaming of running their own start-up. They were drawn to adventure and travel so they came up with Skyara and were accepted to I/O Ventures, a San Francisco tech incubator. They convinced a third partner, Steven Ou, in the final stretch of college to give up on his post-graduation job at UBS and join them instead. They moved to San Francisco about six months ago.

Skyara2"We built Skyara with the concept that everyone has something interesting to share, whether it's a fun hobby, job or a skill that other people would be interested to learn," Wu said. "Most people offering experiences are not doing it for the money. They are doing it to share their hobbies and have some fun and meet new people."

For example, Liu, who grew up fishing with his dad, has been offering crabbing under the Golden Gate Bridge for $30. He's sold out and will add more slots in the new year. Wu, an expert salsa and swing dancer, is offering an evening at a salsa club for $5. "I just moved to San Francisco and I don't know too many people. My idea is to grab coffee beforehand, meet some people and go to the club where I can show people some basic moves."

"Skyara," he said, "is a combination of Etsy and Airbnb for experiences and Meetup for a fun way to meet new people."

Skyara3 Offering a service on Skyara to raise money for a cause is another way to spread awareness of and get more people involved with that cause, Wu added.

So far, Skyara, which has gotten press from TechCrunch, GigaOm, Wired and VentureBeat, doesn't have that many listings, about 200 in all. The trio is trying to jump-start the site by getting people to request experiences. For instance, I/O Venture partner Paul Bragiel wants to ride along with a San Francisco cab driver on a Saturday night.

I am holding out for the ultimate experience: Tea with MC Hammer and angel investor Ron Conway.


LivingSocial scores $175-million investment from

These cards are for charitable giving

Tech firms try to outperk one another

-- Jessica Guynn

Photos, from top: Fun with balloons; PT with an Army Ranger; MC Hammer and Ron Conway, ready for tea. Credit: