Gootip Turns Twitter Into A Location-Based Q&A Service; Launches iPhone App, APIs, and More

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Andrew Mason’s Silicon Valley Problem: He’s Not Here

Gootip, the location-based Q&A startup from France, launched in May to take on Hipster (we think, as Hipster is still stealth) and other sites like it trying to make Yahoo Answers, for example, a valuable, realtime service. Gootip was founded by PriceMinister alumni Mathieu Bidart, Eric Gagnaire and Thierry Sebba, and operates out of a small garage in the South West of France. I’ve seen the pictures, and these guys are bootstrapping all the way, looking like the Jobs and Woz of Southwestern France.

But Gootip, in spite of a questionable name, is trying to separate itself from other Q&A services out there, like LocalMind for example, by not only enabling users to ask and answer questions in context of a particular city, town or specific location, but by going a few steps farther.

Gootip allows users to sign up and link their accounts to Foursquare and Facebook to integrate their check-in data, along with their home and work location. Users then categorize their questions (be it by nightlife, shopping, arts and entertainment, etc.) and enter an expiration date for when they need their question answered by, whether that be 24 hours or one week.

As Steve O’hear pointed out in our initial coverage, Gootip is proving that the barrier to entry for location-based Q&A sites taking advantage of Facebook and Twitter’s data sets has “gotten lower” and young, savvy startups can quickly build services that offer worthwhile expansions of the popular social networks. However, at the time of their beta launch, as he noted, there were a few key pieces missing.

So, to make Gootip more than a simple website or mobile app, the startup is aiming at building a platform that can retrieve and analyze local questions and answers from both internal and external services: Web, mobile, APIs, SMS, social networks, and beyond. It’s an ambitious goal, but to get started and showcase how functionality can work with other big social networks, Gootip has created “Askgtip”, which it calls a “mentioned application” that works with Twitter (and soon Facebook, Foursquare, and Gowalla) to ask questions of their favorite social networks — in this case, Twitter.

Askgtip allows users to ask questions directly of Twitter, whereupon the startup will analyze the question, pull location data, and post it to Twitter and Gootip.com so that users of both will be able to see the question and post an answer. The application retrieves answers given on Twitter and displays them on their homepage, specifying locations given in the answers.

Askgtip also supports Twitter’s topics, which are often linked to an event (like #tcdisrupt, for example), which will be analyzed by the application and linked to a specific location. That’s the main pain point Gootip is trying to address: The difficulty of finding locations and analyzing questions to produce the correct location and location-correct data.

So, for example, if you were to ask “Who is the best doctor in the ‘Mission District’ in San Francisco?” Gootip would convert “Mission District” to a location that exists on the Gootip website so that when Askgtip answers the question (because users have answered on Gootip), transforming it into a map and location on both sites, in short, bringing Gootip’s functionality to Twitter.

As the startup rolls out its service for various social networks, it is also opening up its APIs and plugins. In the coming weeks, Gootip Co-founder Mathieu Bidart says, Sud Quest (one of the biggest local, daily press groups in France) will be integrating the startup’s API to allow users to ask local questions directly from, in this case, Sud Quest’s website.

Beyond the addition of plugins and widgets to enable partnering websites to take advantage of Gootip’s features, the startup is also launching an iPhone app to enable users to search, ask and answer questions, with content presented based on a user’s GPS location — all from the comfort of your iPhone.

The cool thing about Gootip is that it’s already working with over 30 million locations, so that every Gootip search can be performed by keyword (or by using your GPS default on mobile) from millions of towns and cities across the globe. Results are presented with the number of answers to the question, with locations pinned on an interactive map with all the details, including address, phone numbers, etc.

Gootip has also enabled Facebook and Twitter authentication to the new mobile app to allow users to sign in through the social networks, on top of simply signing in through the Gootip.com — the website already offers authentication with Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla and Google — plus, the service is now available in English and French, with German and Spanish translations launching in the next few weeks.

O’hear pointed out several things that Gootip would need to accomplish after launching their beta, and with a new iPhone app (Android is coming soon), plugins and widgets, open APIs, Twitter functionality, and new languages, Gootip has certainly made some great progress. The UX does still need a little tweaking (along with some of the translations), but for three guys bootstrapping in their garage, Gootip has already made leaps and bounds. Hipster better be ready.

For more on Gootip, check them out at home here, and play with Askgtip here.