Mobile Local Discovery: A Conversation With Aloqa
A few weeks ago, we covered Aloqa and its most recent funding news, but today I was able to catch up with CEO Sanjeev Agrawal to dive deeper.
The application, currently in the Android marketplace, is a container for series of “channels” that represent location-based points of interest. These include “coffee,” “restaurants,” as well as some branded channels like McDonald’s. There are default channels and others users can add and customize. Picture it like the home screen of the iPhone (though functionally different).
Once these channels are chosen, users can drill down into each one and specify preferences by adding or subtracting brands (“I like Peets but not Starbucks”). From there the app pushes notification to these channels whenever the device comes within range one of these preferences. Then when the app is opened, users can browse through the discovered items.
Moving Down the Tail
The channels available are hoped to expand rapidly, including things like event listings and other such categories where it will receive affiliate revenues for conversions. Social tools are also a key part of the application for nearby friend alerts and recommendations for local flavors. This will tap into existing social graphs such as Facebook, including its opt-in “Aloqa Buzz” channel.
In addition to the branded apps, Agrawal’s strategy is to tap into mid-market and SMB advertisers that want to “get into” mobile but don’t have the resources to build an iPhone app or mobile Web site. Aloqa offers them an easier point of entry with a set of tools for creating a channel and offering content or promotions. Think of it as a user-friendly version of the iPhone’s software development kit, or “WordPress for app development,” as Agrawal puts it.
Tapping into this long tail of SMB or mid-market channel developers also works toward Agrawal’s data aggregation strategy. Comprehensive data is one of the gating factors of quality local search experiences and Agrawal knows this as a veteran of the local space (Google, Tellme).
Many aspects of the product are well thought out in fact. Agrawal points out that a team of PhDs designed the program. This shows in lots of important little ways such as the efficient use of position updates, which minimizes the amount of power the app uses.
Meanwhile, the app is being commended by a host of leading tech voices like Robert Scoble, and accolades include the Tesla award at the recent Mobile Beat conference. It’s currently available on Android only but other platforms could be coming soon (which I cant’ talk about yet).
Until then, it looks to be a powerful tool that is leading the direction that mobile local search will eventually move (as we’ve argued). Rather than replicate an online experience on a smaller screen, this will involve opt-in discovery engines that utilize the portability and location awareness of the device.
“It’s the anti-Twitter,” says Agrawal. “Twitter tells people what you’re doing. Aloqa tells you what you could be doing.”
A more in-depth profile and conversation with Agrawal is available for TKG subscribers.