Montreal-based Echoer today unveiled its new Android app, which provides a place for mobile users to share their thoughts and experiences around map points for local recommendations. The company is also kicking off its Content Partner Program today, which will see it team up with publications, bloggers and events to populate the service with content in addition to user contributions.
The idea of bringing on partners is a good one for Echoer, which is using events like the Montreal Jazz Festival and content mavens, including urban review sites like The Purple Passport, to make sure that when users open the app and look at a venue or restaurant, something comes up. It’s a sure way to combat the problem of users greeted with little or no content, a problem for apps that depend on local crowdsourced information, at least before they attain the kind of user base something like Yelp enjoys.
That’s especially important for Echoer, which depends not just on people leaving virtual notes at locations, but also on the community backing up other users’ sentiments, so that the most popular ones float to the top. It’s a way to quickly and easily see consensus around local information, rather than having to parse a bunch of reviews.
“We wanted to give users tools to quickly and easily leave their thoughts in places or at events, see what others are saying, and have an impact on which content was seen as ‘relevant,'” Echoer CEO and co-founder Daniel Cowen explained in an interview. “Rather than adding more noise to an already crowded social-local landscape, our users helps us work out which thoughts are worth hearing, elevating the most recent and popular content above the noise.”
Already, with their existing iPhone app, Echoer has had some notable success. Some of its most significant traction has come from an unsuspected source – the Middle East. Just days after launching in the Gulf region, the app racked up over 10,000 users, and Cowen notes that people are using it not just for Yelp-style reviews, but also for meeting people and engaging in lengthy, in-depth conversations with one another around specific locations. It’s been eye-opening, Cowen says, and has led the startup to make some changes in terms of what features they’re planning to prioritize with the app.
There are a number of other similar apps out there, including Localmind, which does live, real-time Q&A around specific spots nearby, and Findery (formerly Pinwheel), Flickr founder Caterina Fakes new location-based notes app. But Cowen thinks that what Echoer provides is different enough both from Localmind and from services like Yelp.
“When a user first pops open the app they can see what’s echoing loudest and start exploring the area and places around them,” Cowen said. “We didn’t want to limit the discovery experience to specific questions. And just like in the real world, the freedom to explore is crucial. Many users may well start out with an particular question or location in mind, but the way we’ve built the app they may see something else that catches their eye, or find the echoes of another use that leads them somewhere totally different.”
In the end, Echoer is making yet another discovery play, this time trying to tackle the tough local market. Rather than go the labor-intensive route of hiring local editors or curators, however, the startup is focused on exploiting some of the content that’s already out there, by providing a mutually beneficial platform for growth. In terms of monetization, Cowen says that monetizable content, like relevant advertising, is the obvious one, but the company is also looking at doing unique things with its Echo Spaces, which provide ways to potentially monetize user-to-user or user-to-venue interaction.
Echoer is currently funded by a lone angel investor, but Cowen says the company will be looking to raise a round to fund the 2.0 development of its app. Android availability should help it grow its user base, and the Content Partner Program should populate its spaces to help it shop that funding around.