Ahead of our first annual hyperlocal industry conference this month in New York, Street Fight will be presenting profiles of some of the companies that will be in attendance. Click here to find out more about the event and reserve your spot today.
Weekend warriors, meet goby. This search engine (www.goby.com, as well as Android and iPhone apps) returns “highly categorized and geo-tagged information” personalized based on the user’s desired activity, according to the company’s CEO and co-founder Mark Watkins.
The spark for the creation of goby was the realization that many activity-seekers, as Watkins puts it, “don’t have a specific idea in mind, but rather are looking for recommendations or help with formulating the question, or knowing what the space of alternatives are.”
Someone looking for local hiking options on a Saturday morning could enter simple search parameters, or receive information based on goby’s understanding of his or her preferences. In return, goby offers a list of local trails, as well as a map pinpointing their locations, and relevant deals or specials provided by goby partners.
The key benefit to users? The ability to see a comprehensive list of local activities without searching multiple websites. For example, parents planning their kids’ weekends often have to go to community websites, local parenting calendars, and even the newspaper’s weekend edition to figure out what to do. But goby places local activities into one of over 350 categories, bringing disparate pieces of information into one place and simplifying decision making. Members who indicate an interest in a particular venue — a nightclub, for instance — receive updates when new activities take place at that location.
The flip side of this is that goby becomes just one more voice in an increasingly loud chorus of information purveyors. While they provide the benefit of data aggregation, that in-and-of-itself is likely to be an insufficient differentiator.
Aggregation also provides the twin challenges of presenting information with insufficient peer opinions attached (thereby continuing to make decisions difficult for users) and the occasional embarrassment of presenting links that no longer connect back to anything. By bringing together disparate sources, goby is vulnerable to the whims and foibles of those sources.
A key learning for goby has been something librarians have known for years — “people often don’t know what they want, or don’t want to search,” as Watkins puts it. “They don’t want 100 great options for concerts, they want five. They just don’t know which ones. They want the app to ‘know’ them and respond accordingly.”
The company has met this challenge by creating a Facebook-linked “Fun Feed” feature, which scans a member’s Facebook profile to get a sense of interests, hobbies, music and activity preferences. Members are then sent recommendations based on what goby has learned — about them, not their friends.
Armed with $2.5 million in Series A funding (the round closed in October 2010), goby has garnered positive press recognition, including receiving a 2011 AppyAward for best mapping or location-based app.
The company also caught the attention of Telenav, which purchased goby in early September. Watkins is excited about the upcoming integration, commenting that Telenav is a “well-kept secret in the location-based service community,” with over 25 million subscribers to their GPS navigation and local search app. It’s not yet clear specifically what Telenav plans to do with its new acquisition, nor how Telenav’s own GPS expertise will play into the companies’ relationship.
Watkins is confident about goby’s strength: “We think smart, personalized recommendations, paired with powerful hyperlocal search when you need it, is the way of the future.”