Grafetee, an app for remembering locations, takes on Foursquare
It’s like Foursquare, but with a twist.
Similar to Foursquare, Grafetee is about discovery. (“There’s a cafe around the corner!”)
It’s also about sharing. Users update their status with images and text. (“Check out my photo of the cute barista who made my drink!”)
Also different from Foursquare, Grafetee lets you bookmark and share locations that aren’t necessarily businesses already recognized by the app.
Imagine, for instance, you find a spot on a beach where the breaks are just perfect for surfing. You share the location with a friend via Grafetee.
Another type of location you can store is, um, crime scenes.
Crime reporting by app
Finnish police, or Poliisi, have been using the app to be alerted to problems via tips that are crowd-sourced from citizens. Grafetee plots the leads that comes in from citizens onto an interactive map, helping Finnish police pinpoint crime trends.
(This information supplements, and doesn’t replace, what comes in to the police through usual emergency calls to 112.)
Help for businesses
Grafetee aims to address a problem that restaurants, hotels, activity companies and other travel-related businesses face, namely, how to make it quick for consumers to find, save, and share location details.
Right now, consumers must take too many steps.
For instance, a traveler might first look up a restaurant on a browser on his or her desktop computer, find the contact details, transfer those details to a mobile device, and then get the mobile device to recognize the location information and plot it on a map.
Grafetee aims to simplify this by persuading businesses to put buttons on their site that can be clicked once to send the relevant info to the app on a user’s mobile device.
Businesses can add a Grafetee button to events or locations on their sites, making it a one-click process for users on the go to save details.
Q&A with CEO Juha Huttunen:
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
The problem of bookmarking real world locations so that they are easily accessible on a mobile device has previously been tied strongly to a single content provider and to a single device.
Grafetee allows the user to instead:
- bookmark anything from practically any content source (such as any website, such as TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, Zillow.)
- use an iOS or Android device
- collaboratively organize location-specific content.
No previous solution addresses all of these issues.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
For consumers, there are two scenarios:
1. Bookmarking –
Example: When you’re planning a trip you might want to use multiple sites for planning and booking but would like to collect all the places like hotel, restaurants, sights and related content, etc., into one app and perhaps share that collection with a friend who’s coming with you.
Both can then easily see the important locations for the trip.
The same principle applies to various other scenarios too, such as when searching for an apartment you can bookmark all the interesting open houses so you (and collaboratively your partner, on his/her device) know when/what/where about the apartments when on the move.
2. Local discovery –
According to the feedback we have received, Grafetee is the best local guide ever when in a new city.
That’s probably because you can combine so many different data sources (Foursquare, Wikipedia, Yelp etc…) and view them simultaneously to discover places and events in your your immediate surroundings.
From a company’s point of view we offer an easy way to mobilize their location based content either via Grafetee content feeds (we deliver location based data from your website to Grafetee users whenever it is relevant to them) or Grafetee bookmarking widget (as easy to add to a site as a Facebook-like-button).
Even if a company already has a mobile app they can benefit from getting increased exposure for their content.
Feeds in Grafetee are always branded for the partner and we link back to the appropriate page on the partner site.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We look to partnering with websites that want to offer their customers the option of easily bookmarking their locations.
People can very easily add places and events from a website to their Grafetee client with only two mouse clicks provided that the site has added our “add to your phone” button which is similar to adding the Facebook like button. (How to do it is here.)
We have learned previously that no PR is enough and virality is a tricky thing to manage, so we got to have other strategies to drive growth.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
We can of course try to turn Grafetee to a B2B product and model, but I’m not sure if that’s sensible. We have our software consulting company that we can always fall back on. We’ve got a fantastic team in place and want to stick together.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
We have made many mistakes. Hopefully we have learned from all of them. The most important lesson would be to start very very lean and adapt quickly.
Grafetee started as our side project and as we saw that it makes sense we put in a small amount of cash to build a prototype and see if we can get some traction for it.
We would have gone the same way regardless of how much funding we’d have available.
We’ve received some funding from Tekes, the Finnish Funding Agency for Technology and Innovation.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Well, we’re not a travel startup per se but rather a more general location bookmarking app that naturally has a lot of potential use in the travel industry.
The one thing we can fix in travel is the interoperability of the different websites when it comes to collecting the places relevant for your trip like hotels, restaurants, sights and other content.
Everyone has their own part covered but no one so far has enabled the easy storage of locations and content from any website to your mobile without the need to register to any service, etc., so that you can use when you need it straight away.
Grafetee is another example of how European startups are ahead of the game, relative to North Americans, when it comes to embracing location-based technologies with mobile-first, business-centered approaches.
Its potential competitors include Google’s Latitude app and Now app, plus the similar product Geoloqi, created by a start-up in Portland, Oregon, which has signed deals with several mid-sized US companies.
Vulnerabilities include its reliance on the APIs of companies like Yelp, which could be cut off.
Events and other time-based activities could be an untapped market.
Visitors to a city eager to know what’s happening in the next hour within a 10-block radius could receive time-based as well as location-based discovery suggestions thanks to the app’s structure.
In a nice touch, the app does not use GPS when it’s running in the background because that would drain a device’s battery.
Another nice touch: No registration required.
It might be a mistake for the app to also branching into bookmarking generic Web content, which seems like a diversion, like, say, hotel or restaurant reviews.
Other bookmarking systems have failed in attempting to develop such products.
Overall, Grafetee may be the slickest geo-location app-based services around.
It needs to grow quickly, though, if it’s going to pull away from competitors and gain market share on a fast-enough trajectory.
With luck, Grafetee will become like Foursquare in yet another way: profitable.
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Sean O’Neill had roles as a reporter and editor-in-chief at Tnooz between July 2012 and January 2017.