Where’s mobile apps allow you to share your location, explore nearby venues, check movie showtimes, find the cheapest nearby gas, check traffic, and more.
Haven’t heard much about them you say? Yeah, I hadn’t either. And looking at the numbers they are putting up and the progress they are making, this is surprising.
This is a company whose user base would appear to be far larger than media darlings like Foursquare and Gowalla, has carrier deals with AT&T and Sprint, owns a killer domain, is run by a former GM of Mapquest, and most critically, seems to be reaching mainstream users.
And check out these numbers:
– 600K mobile users added in the last 30 days
– Coverage on iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Palm, and HTML5
– 32 engineers (out of 40 employees)
– Millions of active users
– Profitable (yes, profitable)
So why aren’t we hearing more about Where in the tech blogosphere?
For one, these guys are based out of Boston. Which isn’t Silicon Valley, New York, or even Austin in terms of US start-up buzz.
And then there’s the product.
The first time I tried the iPhone version of Where, I was a little turned off. Firing up the app brought me to another menu of apps that seemed to be only loosely associated – gas prices, traffic reports, movie showtimes. There was no login prompt. There was no activity stream. There were no game dynamics. At first glance, there didn’t seem to be anything social about the app(s).
It was as if an old fashioned web portal from the late 1990’s had jumped into a time machine (hot tub or otherwise) and reemerged on my iPhone.
In speaking with a couple of execs from the company, it became clear that this effect was no accident. On the utility to game continuum, Where is intentionally off the charts on the utility end. They are all about building useful, vertical, location based content apps that normal people might actually use in their real lives.
If Foursquare is a huge social experiment designed to use game dynamics to enrich people’s lives, Where takes the cosmically opposite approach. They try and show people the information they need, when they need it, in a format that people are comfortable with – blending into people’s existing lives as opposed to trying to influence them.
Many of us in the industry may be guilty of focusing only on what’s new and what’s hot. Where is approaching the location space in a serious, methodical, and dare I say, old school way. And while this approach doesn’t some to be doing much for their PR, it certainly seems to be working from a business perspective.
Here are a couple of other things of note about Where:
– They recently launched Where Ads – an ad network that any local publisher can integrate into their own apps.
– They recently turned on Where.com – a destination website that complements the company’s mobile apps.
– They are working a pretty innovative feature called Placebook that will let users share user generated city guides with each other.
After spending some time with the various Where apps, noting their placement on several mobile platforms’ recommended apps lists, speaking to a couple of execs, and hearing their numbers, I consider these guys a very serious player – even though there is nary a badge or mayor to be seen.