An Interview With The Creator of Near To Here: Find Out How A Simple iPhone App Will Be Your Own World Tour Guide In Your Pocket

Going abroad this semester?  Don’t leave your home, dorm or hostel with out downloading this amazing application for your iPhone.  Near To Here is the one and only pocket tour guide that will be the best investment for all your travel needs.  No need for a tour guide! Anywhere you go, simply whip out the trusty iPhone and tap on the Near To Here application and begin your site seeing activities.

Zak Tanjeloff, the founder of, Near To Here and also a recent 2009 Harvard graduate delves in to all of your questions that will leave you wondering, why the hell have am I still reading this and not adding this essential application to my already long list of iPhone apps?

Originally from Sarasota, Florida and a Campus Tycoon at heart, Zak was off on his first business venture in his sophomore year at Harvard., an automated service for our cell phones where you can choose among thousands  of ringtones to personalize when people call your phone.  Now living in New York City, Zak tells us how the Near To Here idea evolved and why it is such a beneficial and easy to use iPhone application…

The Campus Socialite: You have indicated that you are on to a new business venture, an iPhone application that will be available in the App Store beginning on December 18th 2009.  Can you tell us a little bit about the application?

Zak Tanjeloff: The application is called Near to Here. Its a pocket tour guide that tells you everything you need to know about everything that is near to here,  wherever you are, worldwide.

It layers wikipedia on top of google maps and using your iphone’s GPS feature, alerts you whenever you are near a location of interest by  populating the relevant wikipedia article of whatever you are in front of.

The best part is that it works anywhere in the world, there is no need to download city specific tour guides. Walk through Paris, Rome, Sydney, or Oklahoma City and Near to Here will deliver relevant information about what is around you.

TCS: So the application will provide info about points of interest near your location by delivering alerts as you walk by them. What kind of places will be distinguished as sites that the application will pick up on?

ZT: The application will deliver any information which has been geotagged in Wikipedia, over 8 million points of interest worldwide.

TCS: Very cool! What kind of data will the application offer for college students that will provide as a better service than carrying a Frommer’s travel guide or using a personal tour guide?

ZT: The obvious difference is depth of knowledge. A tour book is finite, and its editors need to determine which points of interest are worth including or not in addition because there is a prodcution cost associated with additional pages, not to mention an aversion to carrying around a 500 page tour book. Our app has none of the physical limitations inherent in a print version. With our app, you will have over 8 million articles with you wherever you go.

Secondly, it is synced to your location, so you will be alerted whenever you pass a point of interest – something which a book simply can’t do.

Thirdly, I know when I used to travel to a new place, I would have to buy a new book for each spot. No need to buy this app more than once, it works everywhere in the world.

Oh, and the best part, the price, its just 99 cents.

TCS: 99 cents? Sounds like a hefty investment. So,  if I am college student that is studying abroad in Italy, will this application tell me background data to say the best club to go to in the area or perhaps the best place for a bowl of pasta?

ZT: No, this app is not designed to be a city guide as much as a tour guide. It will point out points of interest and things that might be interesting to you, but won’t find you the best spot for a gelato.

TCS: I assume you have traveled to many places in the world…what were some of the best sites you have been to or experienced?

ZT: My work has brought me all over. My favorite cities are Buenos Aires or Barcelona, just absolutely beautiful people inside and out. The food is delicious, the music is infectious, and the energy is contagious in both of these places. I also really enjoyed the six weeks I spent in India working on a previous software project – Bangalore is the silicon valley of India, such a mix of old and new it is incredible. And of course, nothing quite compares to Dubai, whose mix of modernity, opulence, and conservatism intrigued me.

TCS: Wow, Dubai, I have to try and get out there! Now, when you were traveling is there a time that sticks out in your mind where you wish you had the iPhone application that you have developed?

ZT: Backpacking through Europe, this would have been great. Often times I found myself in tiny hamlets where no one spoke English. Wandering through the narrow cobblestone streets, I was so curious what was around me – the plazas, the ancient churches, the old buildings, but I had no idea what I was looking at. The guide books didn’t have much information either, so I was left to just stare and admire without any background knowledge. Was this the site of a medieval miracle? Or was this where Russian soldiers fought in the streets against the Nazis?  I had no idea . With the app in my pocket, I would have been able to know exactly what I was looking at and why it was important. Moreover, it would have pointed out things I hadn’t even noticed and would have otherwise missed.

ZT: And how did you manage to develop an iPhone application?  Do you have any background in software development?

I have been working in product development and product management since my time at in college. I wasn’t too familiar with the iphone platform, but I spent a few days watching videos from iTunes University, a great resource for aspiring developers. Once I understood the basic concepts, I built a good team and got to work.

TCS: Can Campus Socialites receive a discount?

ZT: Possibly, I have to look into it.

TCS: How did starting a business in college change your approach or view of being a college student?

ZT: I don’t really think it changed my approach of being a college student. College is the time to try new things, to challenge yourself, and most importantly, it’s the time when you can mess up and fail, and then just try again.

TCS: What were some of the obstacles you had to overcome from being a college student entrepreneur?

ZT: Lack of experience.  I made a lot of mistakes in college simply because I didn’t know any better. Everything from picking business partners to executing business ideas, experience really does help.

TCS: Being a student at Harvard, did this open up any doors for your business or for your travel habits?

ZT: Harvard is a wonderful place no matter what you are interested in. I am big believer in feedback when it comes to developing a business idea or concept. At Harvard, I would accost my friends and teachers in the dinning hall and bounce ideas off them all the time and listen to their criticisms and comments. My peers were from all walks of life  and from all backgrounds from all over the world, and their help and guidance was always an invaluable part of my work process. Even still, Ill call up my old roommates or take old classmates out to lunch to have them help me brain storm and iron out some ideas.

TCS: I assume you took advantage of the resources that Harvard University had to offer, correct?

ZT: Certainly. As I already said, the people around me were definitely the greatest resource and for the the entire time I was at school I tried to absorb as much knowledge from my peers and teachers, whether it be through the classroom, dining hall discussions, or anything else. In addition, there were great entrepreneurial student groups on campus which provided me an outlet to exchange ideas and work with others. Lastly, although the course load at Harvard was not particularly business oriented, I did enjoy a class called the Psycology of Leadership which has given me a lot to think about as I try to manage my different projects.

TCS: What are some of your other business ventures, if any, that you are currently working on or have already established?

ZT: I have been working on consumer product arbitrage detection and execution software, which my roommates refer to as the Money Tree. It hasn’t worked quite like that yet, but we have a great team working on it and hope to have it done soon.

TCS: What is the best advice you were ever given?

ZT: Don’t be scared to share your ideas with people. Ideas are worthless, its action that is valuable. Get feedback and then go for it!

TCS: What is the most important advice you could offer entrepreneurs that are currently attending college?

ZT: Try. Make. Build. Don’t be scared to fail.

NearToHere Demo On YouTube:

Near To Here will soon be available for the Verizon Android and you can find out more about the amazing Near To Hear Application either here in the iTunes App Store or

Feel free to contact Zak at

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