Already, Gowalla has a prototypical version of this approach in play: its “street team” feature, which provides additional features and early beta access to users who pay a small recurring membership fee. Williams says one of the things that has changed is the sheer scale of mobile users, which means that even if only a small percentage of your overall user base wants to pay up, you stand a chance of building something that can successfully monetize in this way. Location-based networking app Zenly, which Snap acquired and then shut down, much to the chagrin of its many million active users, is a great example of an app that had that kind of scale in the same space Gowalla is targeting, he added.
Gowalla has an impressive list of notable investors this time around, including MG Siegler from GV (who actually covered Gowalla in its original form very early on for TechCrunch when he was a writer here). I spoke to Siegler about why he’s optimistic the timing is right for a location-based networking comeback. He said that all his experience has led him to the conclusion that everything in tech comes back around, and the question of whether a startup is successful comes down to timing.
“I sort of believe, for a lot of startups, if they just have a long enough time horizon, they can be in the right place at the right time, for something to work,” he said.
While Gowalla didn’t have both the timing and the place right the first time, he said that Williams and his team are poised to capitalize with this resurrection, given signals like the Zenly success already mentioned above.
I’m so happy to see Gowalla back. Their designs were so Apple-Like and FourSquare won with the network effect but I still continued checking in to both apps for years until Gowalla shut down. I’ve been in their Street Team Beta for a couple of years and it’s finally ready for prime time. The only ding is that their POI database is 100% user generated so every time I go somewhere, I’m the first person to check in. I really wish they’d pony up and pay for Google Maps or TomTom POI APIs. I know they won’t dare license POIs from FourSquare but not having a base map makes it hard to get started when you are one of only a couple of hundred users globally.