Restaurants, retailers, museums, art galleries, and other local businesses spend a great deal of time writing posts on Facebook, Tweeting, and whatever else they can do to get customers through their doors. However, the chances of their target market seeing the update at the right time and at the right place when mixed in with all the other content in the user’s news feed is slim. To tackle local discovery, Boston-based Spindle launched to be ‘the search engine for the social web,’ helping users identify and locate the latest updates from places around them. It also announced today that it has raised a total of $2.3 million in funding from Polaris Ventures, GreyLock Partners, Lerer Ventures, and other investors.
Co-founded by three ex-Microsoft employees previously working at the software giant’s New England Research and Development (NERD) center, co-founder Pat Kinsel spoke with BetaKit about the opportunity Spindle saw to redefine search as it relates to social content. “Really what Spindle tries do is answer the question, ‘what’s happening around me right now?’ and so where we differentiate from other local discovery apps is that most apps tell you what’s around you, not what’s happening around you,” Kinsel said. “We automatically go out, and find every business near you and find their Twitter account and Facebook account and we analyze what they’re saying in real time.”
Taking both location and the time of day into account, the app analyzes content shared by local businesses and provides a news feed, with the ability to filter by categories like dining, shopping, nightlife, and more. Once a user finds what they like, they tap the update for added information and can share what they find via Facebook, Twitter, SMS, and email. Users also have a separate feed to keep up to date on their friend’s activity and the ability to favorite and like a place to instantly receive notifications, in addition to being able to pick a location on a map and find out what’s happening there.
“The idea is that it should update for you throughout the course of the day, so if you pulled it out in the morning on a Sunday, it’ll find businesses talking about brunch specials for example, and not just discounts but if there’s interesting events that are happening, anything that’s relevant and timely for where you are at the moment,” Kinsel added.
Right now the company is focused on building their user base and query volume to build what Kinsel hopes would turn into a traditional search business, with geo-targeted ads as a possible revenue stream. However, the company will wait to see how the app takes off and how users engage with it before rolling out any monetization.
The biggest challenge the company will face will be tackling the already ingrained habits of how people discover local businesses. There are a multitude of local discovery apps, including Yelp, foursquare, Findery, EvzDrop, TagWhat, and UrbanTag. Then when it comes to discovering friends close by, BetaKit just covered the third iteration of Banjo, which to date has surpassed three million users, and its competitors like Sonar and Highlight. Spindle hopes to stand apart by taking a different product approach, focusing on social content shared by local businesses.
The company also has plans to add content from other social networks likes Instagram, and eventually build for the Android platform down the road pending the traction it gets with its iPhone app. Currently the app’s services are available only for Boston and San Francisco with other major U.S cities on the roadmap. However, before any of those plans unfold, Spindle will have to work to become top-of-mind when someone turns to their phone to discover places around them.