At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the trend for this year’s SXSW interactive was undoubtedly social discovery. There are an influx of mobile apps trying to connect you with those nearby based on mutual friends and interests. In five years, going into a room without the added insight of how you’re connected to who will seem archaic. It’s a not a matter of if, only when - and the even more highly coveted answer to who will be doing the connecting?
The early buzz has favored Highlight, Banjo, and Sonar, but there’s one more player in the game you should keep your eye on – Glancee. This San Francisco based, three person team is right in the thick of the race, and don’t expect them to fall off anytime soon.
I caught up with Glancee co-founder and COO Alberto Tretti to learn more about their inspiration, the future of location-based apps, and how to win the social discovery race.
Tech Cocktail: Where did the inspiration for Glancee come from?
Albert Tretti: I moved to the U.S. five years ago, and since then I lived in five different cities. Every time I moved, I looked for events where to meet interesting people and build a new social circle. It was a slow and time consuming process. Sometimes I’d start talking to people only to realize I have nothing in common with them. Other times I would chat for half an hour and find that we share an amazing connection, like an old school friend, or passion for the same band. There are all these hidden connections with the people around us, but no easy way to find them. I wanted to be able to enter a room full of people and have this sort of sixth sense that would surface all connections and tell me who I should talk to. This is how I started to shape the idea for an app that makes it easy to discover and connect with interesting people nearby.
What do you see as the future of location-based, social mobile apps?
Tretti: There is no doubt that location-based services (LBS) have a bright future, and I think they will become part of your daily life, just as your mobile phone is right now. The reason for this is that LBS are the key to bridge your digital life with your physical world, and once this bridge is built, amazing things become possible.
Right now, Glancee is focused on matching people to one another, but in the future it could connect you to shops and services near you to create a “virtual concierge.” Imagine you are walking in front of Gap or Starbucks and your profile matches the target audience they want to address for a marketing campaign. Instead of receiving a static ad, you could receive a Glancee message from a real person inside the store: “Hey, we think you would like this because of your interests. Would you like to know more? I can tell you about it over Glancee, or you can come inside and talk to me.” All of a sudden, you are engaged in a conversation and an ad becomes a person you are talking to.
Tech Cocktail: Is Glancee going to be cutting into the pie of the pre-existing giants (Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook) or creating a whole new layer of demand, or both?
Tretti: Right now there is no popular service whose main purpose is to connect you with people nearby. Glancee is creating a new behavior, not cutting into the existing pie, but adding more to it. And when “ambient social discovery” will become popular (i.e. not perceived as creepy), the existing giants will be interested in providing the same service.
Tech Cocktail: What will it take for Glancee to out do Highlight and the other social discovery apps?
Tretti: This is a winner-takes-all market and people will end up using whichever service has most users. The key is how to win early adopters and give them a positive experience, which in return will make them talk about you. To achieve this there are several challenges to solve: how to facilitate real-world meetings without being “creepy;” how to determine and notify who you should talk to; and how to display location information while still keeping users safe.