Today I had the chance to talk to Geodelic founder Rahul Sonnad, former Microsoft engineer and founder of thePlatform (acquired by Comcast in 2006).
Geodelic, founded in 2008 with funding from Clearstone and Shasta Ventures, is working on a somewhat novel approach to location-based mobile apps. Instead of just locating the nearest gas station or coffee shop, it goes deeper to provide info on what different locations are all about.
Content and Context
The information Geodelic provides can include everything from the historical significance of a city intersection to promotions within a mall or store. It operates as more of a discovery engine than a search engine: Different points of interest from a variety of categories are automatically served based on where users are.
Users can then choose to drill down deeper into certain categories or specific points of interest that are recommended. This drill-down is not only treated as an “opt in” for more info, but also as a more precise indication of where the user is. Otherwise, it’s difficult to tell by lat/long whether a user is standing inside a Blockbuster or the McDonald’s next door.
Next comes the content — something that is always challenging in the local space. To do this, Geodelic plans to work with a number of different points of interest, theme parks, malls, casinos, and other sources of localized content and promotions.
It’s currently in late-stage discussions with shopping malls and theme parks, for example, to build a database of geocoded content that is served through its app, depending on where users are on site. Another possibility, according to Sonnad, is the development of branded apps for these entities.
Later will come the long tail of fragmented SMBs that are harder to tackle from a sales perspective but nonetheless hold a massive market opportunity. That’s where a channel relationship with local media publishers (YPs, newspapers, etc.) will likely come into play.
If You Build It
In the meantime, the name of the game is building a sticky product. So far, Geodelic appears to have done that. It is based largely on location awareness, discovery features, and limited typing. This includes an interface similar to Apple’s Cover Flow, which Sonnad coined “discovery flow.”
In short, it doesn’t port an online product to a smaller screen; it’s built uniquely for a touch screen-based/location aware/accelerometer-enabled mobile device. The same can be said of many success stories on the iPhone, including Urbanspoon and TapTap Revenge.
Marketing the app is also a challenge, acknowledged Sonnad, something made more difficult by the increasing amount of noise in the mobile app market. The strengths of the Geodelic app should carry it a certain distance, but cross promotions with some of its partners (theme parks, content networks, etc.) are hoped to gain additional penetration.
The app is currently being tested and will roll out first for the iPhone some time in the next few months, then likely for Android-based devices. In the meantime, check out the video on the company’s home page that does it better justice.