Gowalla, Foursquare and the Location-Based Services boomlet

9 Dec

TechCrunch reported today on the new $8.4mm Series B round for Gowalla led by our friends at Greylock Partners. This announcement comes on the heels of recent news that Gowalla competitor Foursquare pulled in $1.4mm shortly after its much-publicized appearance at the SXSW conference.

Regular readers of this space may recall earlier pieces in Adventure Capitalist on the broad Location-Based Services (LBS) space and my bullishness on the emerging sector. In 2006, my firm, Citron Capital, was involved in a promising LBS venture, Open Planet, backed by the team that founded GoCar Tours, that was focused on the travel and tourism segment. The company developed a robust tour creation and delivery platform that enabled consumers to enjoy customized tours on their GPS-enabled cellphones virtually anywhere in the world, guided by GPS waypoints linked to the content. The experience was similar to that of a very robust navigation system in a top-line vehicle. The key difference was that instead of receiving mundane driving directions or locations of nearby bank ATMs or gas stations, the consumer would get the kind of rich content you’d expect from a good travel guide like Frommer’s or Fodor’s tailored to the route the consumer chose, and based upon preferences selected by the user. Because the content was delivered via GPS-enabled phone, the “tour” could be experienced in any number of ways – on foot, in a vehicle, on a bicycle, etc. The user would select the length of the tour, the route, their interests and preferences, and the software would create the tour, pulling together bits of content from a massive database of content linked to GPS-waypoints, and deliver it to the user’s cellphone. The preferences were so fine-tuned that a husband and wife could feasibly walk down the same streets in Paris and listen to entirely different tours. He would get content that interested him (sports, Renaissance literature, military history), while she received content related to her interests (say, music, sculpture, culinary, etc.)

The announcements on Gowalla and Foursquare and the attention they have received only serve to underscore how hot the LBS space has become. We wish them well and look forward to additional entrants to a sector that has long been bandied about as a “next big thing.” Unlike a lot of “next big things,” however, LBS actually looks like it’s poised to live up to its enormous potential.


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