Local Q&A Service Localmind Comes to Android, Prepares to Target Business Owners

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Location-based Q&A service Localmind is arriving on Android today, after closing a round of $600,000 in angel funding back in July. The company is also working on several developments to appeal to business owners, who will soon be able to use Localmind to connect directly with their customers, or their potential customers, in real time.

In case you don’t remember Localmind, it launched at this year’s SXSW, where it served as a useful tool to find out where the hot parties were being held.

The app leverages location-based services like Foursquare, Gowalla, and Facebook Places, allowing you to instantly message people checked in to a venue. The idea is that you could ask your friends what it’s like at any given location right now. Is it crowded? What’s the special tonight? Is the band any good? And so on.

The questions are sent out using push messages or SMS, depending on user preference. Participating users can accrue points and badges for responding to questions – an effort to “gamify” the app and encourage participation. Those who are most active in answering questions can become a “venue expert,” a designation which will soon be automatically awarded to all Foursquare mayors.

While the app was certainly a hit at SXSW (it was even Robert Scoble’s favorite at the time), there may have been some questions about how useful it would continue to be outside of major events or urban centers filled with techno-savvy, highly mobile users, like San Francisco and New York.  After all, if the majority of your friends use Foursquare, for example, you can now just message them within the Foursquare application itself, thanks to a feature added in early July. And SMS is still a lot easier than loading an app for the occasional quick question among friends.

But Localmind CEO and Co-Founder Lenny Rachitsky says that the real benefit for consumers is that Localmind allows you to message checked-in users who aren’t your Foursquare, Facebook or Gowalla friends. Of course, they have to be on Localmind for this to be possible. He also notes that the post-SXSW growth has been decent, with the app now approaching 20,000 users.

3 Business-Level Programs Now in Development

Still, Localmind is hardly a breakout success at this point, which may be why the company is now exploring three initiatives that will specifically target business owners. It’s currently trialing a service that lets local business owners get directly involved with the customers asking questions about the venue in real time. This is currently being privately tested with a dozen businesses in San Francisco, New York, Montreal and Vancouver. The benefit for business owners is that they can respond to users’ queries while away from a PC or their business landline, for example. All the conversations take place on mobile, either via in-app messaging or SMS, which is faster and easier, says Rachitsky.

Also in the works is an advertising program that allows businesses to buy ads which would appear when a user asked a question about any business in their same category. For example, after sending a question to another Localmind user about the coffee at Starbucks, a local shop’s ad could appear, suggesting their venue instead.

Finally, the company is working on a broader “regional questions” program that would let you use Localmind more like a personal assistant serving recommendations, similar to Alfred or Siri. But while those apps rely on  deeply understanding your own personal preferences, Localmind would instead serve direct recommendations from other regional “experts.” Business owners, too, could bid keywords to showcase their listings further up in the suggested recommendations page. How this exactly will look and feel to the end user hasn’t been 100% worked out yet, but will be revealed in the app’s big redesign arriving in a couple of months.

Localmind for Android is available now in the Android Market.