Loku Brings Local Aggregation Engine to Mobile With HTML5 App

Austin-based startup Loku is bringing its “big data for local” pitch to mobile. After five months in a web-only beta, the company launched an HTLM 5 app this morning that brings together local content from across the web in a Flipboard-like interface.

Loku is essentially half local content aggregator, half personalization tool. The company data mines local information – everything from reviews to editorial articles – then matches the content with a user based on location, preset preferences (gender, age, hipster etc.) and learned likes and dislikes.

The decision to go with HTML5 over a native app was as much about traction as it was about product, Dan Street, CEO of Loku, told Street Fight in an interview: “With a native app, you have to play Apple’s App Store game and you have to play all the different games of getting downloads. [In HTML5] we can use all of the various web marketing techniques, which have already been built that are essentially nascent on the mobile phone.”

Gaining traction outside of the early-adopter community is a big problem for location-based services and though Street would not comment on specifics, the idea of leveraging web-based marketing techniques could plug Loku into the same customer acquisition streams already used by online media.

On the product side, Loku has picked up on a growing trend among LBS plays away from the map as the go-to interface. “We tested a map-based app for a couple months – men loved it and women hated it,” said Street about the decision. “In general, the early-adopter types like to know as much as they can about each piece of content – and maps help with that; but the average user just wants the best information as quickly as possible.”

With the launch of the app, Loku is also rethinking its revenue model, which, until now, has been built largely on syndicating deals. “We were making a fair amount of money on deals, but it’s just not what consumers want to see – people are fatigued,” said Street who also pointed out that deal fatigue skews across gender as well with women tending to be more receptive than men.

Loku’s new model aims to complete the purchase loop by partnering with mobile payment processors to enable the company to track consumers from impression to payment and offer discounts and other incentives accordingly. Street says the company is in talks with two mobile payment players already, as well as “a local media group” to resell its product.

As local information on the web becomes increasingly ubiquitous, look for a wave of aggregators like Loku to sprout up with personalization-focused products. In many ways, the local information ecosystem is following the trajectory that the deals space has taken over the past year: as the signal creation game consolidates with a few dominant players coming out on top, a new wave of aggregators arise to build products on top of the information layer offered by the original players.

What will differentiate Loku is its focus on local editorial content – a nut that is yet to be cracked in the local space. Between the nationally scaled Patch and Topix, and indie-plays like West Seattle Blog, hyperlocal content is more abundant than ever.  From a data and location perspective, however, this content is far more complex than reviews or check-ins, which are small bytes of information tied to a signal location.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.

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