I had the pleasure of interviewing Lenny Rachitsy, co-founder and CEO of Localmind—an app that combines a real-time, location-based Q&A platform with existing check-in services to give you ‘super powers.’
Me: How long has Localmind been in business for and what was the thought process involved in its launch?
Lenny: Localmind started just over a year ago. We launched our app at SXSW last March, so we’re just about to reach the one year mark since launching. Where did the time go??
The app came out of a number of intersecting ideas my co-founders and I have had. Prior to its launch, I created an app called Assisted Serendipity which notified you when the male/female ratio turned in your favor at places you were interested in.
My co-founder Beau worked on an app called OnSlope that showed you where on a ski trail map you actually were, using the actual resort trail maps.
We both realized there was much more value to be gleaned from location data that was increasingly being made available. This, along with a convergence of trends such as the proliferation of smartphones (with GPS), an increased in location-sharing behavior, and education in the market about location-based services created the first opportunity to make something like this app possible.
Me: Okay, can you please briefly walk me through a few scenarios where using this app would come in handy? Lets say it’s Saturday night and Shawn wants to know a great place to hangout with his friends, how can Localmind help him decide?
Lenny: Localmind should be the first app Shawn opens. He’d open up Localmind, find the general area he’s thinking about heading out to, and ask the exact question he has in his mind (e.g. “What’s a great place to hangout with friends around here?”).
The magic happens once he sends off that question. The app routes that question, in real-time, to the users in the Localmind community most likely to give Shawn the best possible answer. In this case the app would route the question to users who are knowledgeable about bars in that specific area. We carefully manage how many questions each user gets, and even more importantly learn what each of our users is knowledgeable implicitly.
Now, once Shawn gets a recommendation, he can then use the service to actually ping someone at the specific venue to find out how crowded it is, where the best place to park is, and what the cover charge happens to be. With Localmind, Shawn basically has super powers.
Me: What if we back up and this time say that Shawn knows all of the hotspots in his community. He knows exactly where people can go to for some fun on a Saturday night. What role could he play in using Localmind?
Lenny: Well, Shawn would be a perfect candidate for answering questions from other users. One key here is that Shawn can’t simply go into Localmind and claim what he knows about areas and venues. He has to prove it by spending time in those areas, checking-in (through Foursquare/Facebook/Gowalla), and answering questions. The more Shawn contributes to the community, the more expertise and reputation he earns.
Me: It sounds like a great tool to use to meet new people while sharing their favourite spots. What are your thoughts about that?
Lenny: This is what we’ve been focusing on more and more. Beyond simply getting raw information, we strongly encourage conversations between users, and online-to-offline interaction. We want to bring communities closer together, not simply give you the quickest answer possible.
Me: Since our app is still a fairly new app, where and at the stage can users expect to get real-time responses when deciding where to go around their city?
Lenny: We’re already at that stage in a number of cities around the world. When you send out a question, we actually tell you how long you should expect to get an answer. And it’s almost always within 10 minutes. If we can’t get you an answer quickly, we’ve failed.