From Check-in to Lunch: Location-based Apps Connect People

Yesterday I had lunch with Tracy Lee for the first time. We are both involved with start-ups and both love to go out to eat. We shared business contacts, bounced some ideas off one another and made plans to do it again. While in itself this is this is no big feat, the reason we met was the location-based check-in game Foursquare.

Tracy and I work in the same large office park, but had no reason for our paths to cross. Then one day while she was using Foursquare to check-in to the Starbucks between our buildings she saw that I had recently been there. On a whim, she invited me to become her friend on the service and I accepted.

From there we could see when one another check-in at different locations which lead to several exchanges on Twitter (starting with Tracy suggesting I try a new place for lunch.)

The end result was our lunch.

Gowalla's check-in screen

While the concept of location-based software suggesting compatible friends or dates nearby is not new, it has never truly caught on. With the slew of new check-in apps out now (Brightkite, Foursquare, Gowalla, Loopt Star, & Whrrl to name a few) and smartphone sales skyrocketing, it appears to be on the verge of mass adoption.

Most of the current apps focus on customer loyalty and coupons, but we cannot be far away from at least one of these services or a new entrant adding suggested friends/business contacts/romantic connections based on location and compatibility factors completed by the user.

Foursquare: A Brief History

WIRED has an excellent two-part series on Foursquare that recounts the challenges , successes, trials and near-misses that are relatable to anyone who has spent time at a start-up.

In addition, to recounting some of the high a low lights of one of the most talked about start-ups today, the articles provide a glimpse into how small businesses are using Foursquare and where the revenue may be in the future.

Crowley’s already been surprised by the ways small businesses have taken to Foursquare. Retailers are starting to use check ins as “digital punch cards,” a hotel in Amsterdam is using Foursquare to raffle off free rooms, and many a coffee shop now offers free lattes to its “Mayor” as a promotional strategy.

Kudos to Shane Snow for putting together a very interesting behind-the-scenes view.

Inside Foursquare: Checking In Before the Party Started (Part I)
Inside Foursquare: Checking In Before the Party Started (Part II)