[Germany] Since Foursquare never officially checked in to Germany, another company has decided to become the local Mayor. The clone company Friendticker came out of its beta on Friday with a banging underground party in one of Berlin’s secret club locations. Officially, the business of ruling Germany’s location wars starts today.
As is generally widely known, Germany has a very environmentally sustainable economy. There are recycling bins everywhere. So it’s nice to see the recycling has extended to the layout and functionality of Friendticker. The website and the iPhone app resemble Foursquare with only minor changes and the browser bar’s favicon looks very much like Facebook’s – only in purple. Even the company name is recycled: The founders bought it from the deadpooled German Twitter clone Frazr which used it as an alternative.
Nevertheless, despite the obvious comparisons, look under the hood and Friendticker has features you won’t find in Foursquare and Gowalla that mainly allow users to earn badges like points earned in a game. At Friendticker, a user with the most check-ins does not only become President of a location, he also gets real value in exchange.
Friendticker is focused on loyalty rewards and users can change their badges into vouchers that are worth money. The first partner is the Grand Hotel Esplanade in Berlin. For five nights in its Harry’s New York Bar you get a complimentary upgrade on your next stay, which means a suite for the price of a simple room. Other rewards come from clothing company März München, students’ online shop unimall.de or the night clubs MMX and Goya. More partnerships are on the way.
The brands get an interface from their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to Friendticker and thus change which reward items to offer as well as where and when they are available. That’s another advantage over Foursquare where items must be generated by six company employees, as Friendticker CEO Florian Resatsch explained to TechCrunch. The brand may not even be tied to a permanent set of locations. For example, a band that wants to reward fans for coming to multiple concerts on its tour could offer reward items like skipping the queue at the venue or meeting a member of the band.Friendticker has already created thousands of locations in its database before users started to add their own. These stem from local reviews website Qype which allows an import over a simple API. Qype is now seeing how to embed Friendticker into their own services – which could be a way of competing with Yelp which recently enabled Foursquare-like check-ins at their reviewed locations.
Interestingly, the usual German concern over privacy means Friendticker has strict privacy controls, something which will appeal to German users over Foursquare. While Foursquare has a new analytics dashboard, local businesses which use Friendticker get only anonymous user information which is automatically deleted after 24 hours. The lawyer costs for these privacy rules have already been €20,000 and so its understandable that Friendticker, with 15 employees, is looking for funding. After smaller investments from a handful of Business Angels, Friendticker is now working on raising a €3m or €4m series A round. But VC financing in Germany is too damn’ slow, says Florian, and so his plan B is to try and break even by year end.
The business model with loyalty rewards guarantees a revenue stream from day one and most of the development was financed by Friendticker’s mother company Servtag – already known for their mobile tagging and NFC solutions, started long before Foursquare. A first iteration of the Friendticker iPhone software was presented at CeBIT in March 2009, but people had to take photos of QR codes that were manually attached to specific locations to check in. That was too complicated and location-based social networking still hadn’t taken off. Therefore, Friendticker had to throw it all away in August and turned itself into a location-based loyalty game. Remind you of anyone?