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Gowalla CEO: We Never Aimed to Be Like Foursquare

  |  September 13, 2011   |  Comments

Geo-social app reboots to get back to its original vision.


Gowalla's new app is not designed to sidestep rival Foursquare. Instead, it's about getting Gowalla back to its roots, CEO Josh Williams says, challenging a popular blogosphere narrative from the past 24 hours that suggested his company had thrown up the proverbial white flag. Gowalla claims 2 million users, while Foursquare says it has more than 10 million.

"We were never aiming to put up the type of check-in numbers the guys at Foursquare have," he said in an interview with ClickZ News. "I think they are going to continue to innovate in that space. But for us, we are much more comfortable building in this direction. I feel like it's a lot closer to what our original vision [was]."

On Monday, Williams told a TechCrunch Disrupt audience that his company's geo-social app was being overhauled, adding city guides for 60 markets worldwide, travel-oriented info, and more user-generated content. A lot of punditry followed that the CEO didn't exactly agree with.

"From what I've read, people have said this [development represents] Gowalla losing the check-in war," he said. "And I'm really OK with that because I feel that's something we were never striving to go after to begin with. Gowalla has always been about sharing high-level experience like, 'Hey, I took this trip.' Or, 'Hey, I had this great night out with a bunch of friends at the concert.' And much less about the transactional check-in like, 'I'm at Starbucks again.'"

Williams said the new app would premiere "in a matter of days" and referred to it as a "social atlas." He explained, "Whether you are going to San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Europe for the weekend, you can quickly see, 'Hey, where have my friends been? What do the locals like to go? Where can I grab a burger? What does the expert food blogger I follow say about the place?' To be able to get those recommendations and ideas on the fly is pretty powerful."

Travel and hospitality brands, in particular, will have targeted advertising opportunities on the new version of the app, he said. He hinted that sponsored search results were in the works.

"Whether it is search per se or suggested recommendations," he said, "that's definitely a place where we're going."

The CEO also commented on how geo-social apps and daily deals platforms were converging. "I think you are going to see a continued blurring of the lines when it comes to traditional check-ins and the social deals space," he said. "There's certainly a business model there. It's just not necessarily the one we are looking to service at this point."



Christopher Heine

Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.

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