Caterina Fake’s Findery launches, opening up place-based notes to the world
Findery is a new app that allows users to create place-based notes – a user writes a note, adds an optional picture, video or audio file, and attaches it to a specific address in the world. Others can then browse through the notes worldwide to learn about the history that surrounds them.
This “social local discovery” app, available today in the App Store, joins others in this space (see coverage here). Yet place-based platforms to share media and content is a nut that has not been cracked; some are using addresses as pins for content and others are angling towards the camera as the center of the user experience.
This team is led by Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, who has been focusing her energy in some way on the idea since 2005. The team started to coalesce in 2011, and picked up steam in 2012 in advance of today’s launch.
The app is very straightforward, encouraging users to share their stories and multimedia directly with the community. There’s the requisite follow functionality, which offers clear community-building advantages.
Right now, the challenge will be continuing to build the trove of content that creates the fascinating experience – this engagement is what will keep people coming back.
The use cases for travel and hospitality brands are also potentially popular, as the Notemap functionality would allow a brand to share more about a particular location – or to curate a walking tour of the city that encapsulates the local domain knowledge that sets the brand apart.
The company positions the product this way:
Findery treats the world as a blank canvas, overlaid on a map, which can be explored through geo-tagged notes filled with insights and experiences from people around the globe. Notes, which can be public or private, include historical information, memories or personal stories, little known facts and unique perspectives. Using text, images, videos and/or sound files, Findery annotates and organizes information and experiences around places in a simple, engaging way.
Tnooz spoke to Caterina Fake as she watched the user numbers come in – a measure of pleased excitement fueled the conversation. Here’s what she said about the nascent project.
Tell us more about Findery.
We just launched today, and it’s all about places. We have been trying to distinguish ourselves from places that are more about venues, reviews or recommendations. We’re about telling the story of the places. Here’s something that happened right here, here’s the story, the thing that happened here, that are of note, and that are of interest.
We’ve been building a foundation of users that are building up content over the past year. No matter where you are around the world you should be able to open the app and find something about that place so you can understand what it’s about.
There’s all kinds of things that you wouldn’t necessarily know: for example, right near our office, there are some guerrilla grafters that have grafted the branches to the trees so they’ll bear fruit in autumn. There used to be a bunch of jazz clubs near my house, including one where Big Momma Thorton used to play. One of her audience members was 19 year old Janis Joplin – little things like that, the things that make the places around you come alive.
What’s the interface for sharing this content with the community?
We call it a “note,” which is something that is 100 or 200 words that you can read on a mobile device.
A lot of people will attach video, sound and text to their words. We have a user in Dubai that is recording all kinds of wonderful sounds from the area. I came across a video of the celebration following the end of WW1 – really wonderful historical video. We have some active power users, in places like Tokyo, Berlin, Sydney, all over the world.
This space has seen some new entrants – and exits – over the past few years. Yet no one has been able to crack the place-based content code. What’s your approach?
Our background is in community building. This is something that we really love and we adore. Some of the Flickr team members are on our team, including Heather Chance who originally built the community there.
I like to call it participatory media, and this is something that we have a lot of love for. We’ve taken a lot of care in building the community.
You’ve been testing with power users for awhile now. What use cases are you seeing on the commercial front?
We’ve had businesses come on, such as real estate agents, who use it to showcase their local knowledge. We had a woman come on last week called the Break Up Project, and had brought together various stories of break ups. We’ve had people putting on unsolved murders all over the map. Railroad enthusiasts who are talking about where the railroad lines used to be. Geo-people who are interested in geographical anomalies. We’ve got people leaving their own personal geo-caching projects where they leave clues in places.
All kinds of wonderful projects and people!
There’s also a woman who gives out socks to homeless people – and leaves stories about her experience. There’s a non-profit that’s visiting all 50 states and finding other non-profits to be sure their stories are told.
What does this mean for monetization?
We’re still developing the monetization model. When we initially launched we thought we would do Sponsored Notes. It’s still TBD and we’re experimenting with a bunch of things. We haven’t done any business development, yet we’re watching how the businesses are using it.
We’ve got a bunch of DMOs on the platform, such as Pittsburgh and we’ve got one from rural southwest Alabama.
There’s a lot of possibilities and we’re still figuring out what the best model is. The magic recipe is something that benefits the system but also the advertiser and the person actually using the product. That is the ideal trifecta.
Right now, we’re just focused on building the product and community – but monetization is something we’re always interested in, from the beginning.
The first day of launch is always an exciting one for a new app. How’s it looking so far?
It’s growing very fast as of the last few hours! We’re super excited. We’ve been looking forward to this launch forever, and it always seems like we needed to make sure that we were great. It’s not easy, but the harder part is having something on the ground and to take the time to build that up.
How many people are on the Findery team?
12 people. 2011 when we first started building the team but didn’t come together in 2012 – it was a fuzzy beginning. I was actually told that I had this idea in 2005!
That brings up the question of timing. Why now?
First of all, smartphones and GPS didn’t really exist in 2005, so there’s nothing that you could do about this then except for a website. This is a mobile, place-based experience, so I think that the time to build this become a reasonable thing to start around 2011.
And then a lot of people have tried this! But cultivating the member base and resisting the siren call of importing other people’s data into your system or other people’s content – you have to resist that.
Other people tried to bootstrap it by putting in blog posts or Zagat reviews or things like that, and the thing is you need people who are writing and contributing things specifically to the thing you are building – and not importing stuff from other places, like Wikipedia.
It takes time to build something like this and that’s what we’ve been doing.
Looking forward to the next year – what’s on the horizon?
We’re probably be adding new team members soon, but I’m a big believer in a small team being able to accomplish great things. I really love startups, which should be obvious from my career.
For example, on Flickr, before we were acquired, we had incredible growth and it was built by 6 people. I think you can build great products with small teams – there are people that raise too much money and expand their team too much, and that can slow you down. You want to be responsive and agile and build things quickly.
Nick Vivion was a senior reporter for Tnooz from August 2012 to July 2015.