Science & Technology

Have Phone, Will Travel

Local app creates connections in the heart of Baltimore.

Want to explore a new city but have no idea where to start? Ask a local, or in this case, Elan Kotz and Jeffrey Dobin. Their new app, Blikkee, strives to connect locals with travelers (or even other locals) to find the hidden gems in any city, starting with Baltimore and New York.

Meaning “tin can” in Afrikaans, Blikkee is inspired by the direct, person-to-person connection of a tin can telephone. Unlike services like Yelp and TripAdvisor, which rely on crowd-sourced reviews, it cuts through the noise and sends you straight to the local source. “While there is no shortage of recommendation sites, people waste tons of time on them,” says Dobin. “On average, people are spending hours choosing restaurants or planning trips.”

As with other popular swipe-style apps, users create a personal profile including a short bio, their areas of advice expertise, and a free tip, like where to get the best bánh mì. (“Café Cito in Hampden is the way to go, especially with a fried egg,” says Kotz.) Users can also match based on demographics, common friends, and shared interests, and then message each other to give and receive personalized recommendations on everything from food and drinks to music and art. Tapping into the sharing economy, users can even opt to make extra cash by charging for advice.

Kotz, who is a Baltimore resident and previously co-founded The Food Market, and Dobin, a Towson University alum, both agree that with its up-and-coming status, Baltimore is the perfect home for an app like Blikkee, which is out next month in beta. “Baltimoreans are super passionate about our city and the things we do,” says Kotz. “We want to add to the local tech community while supporting the people and places that make this city great.”