In a city like San Francisco, there are tons of stories packed into every block — there’s the one building that didn’t burn down in the 1906 earthquake and fire, there’s the bar where Jack Dorsey used to drink while brainstorming about building Twitter, there’s the spot in the park where locals play jazz on Sundays. But unless you’re on a walking tour with a local history buff or riding with an especially knowledgeable cab driver, you might never discover such tidbits.
Findery is launching worldwide on iOS today to bring these things out of oral histories and into the digital world. The app, which is also available for use on the mobile web, lets you take photos and notes from specific locations and tag them on a map anywhere in the world for other people to see and discover. Findery founder and CEO Caterina Fake stopped by TechCrunch headquarters to give us a demo the app in person, and you can watch that in the video embedded above.
Today’s public launch comes two years after Findery (then known as Pinwheel) quietly rolled out a private beta version of its app. A public beta version followed in October 2012, with a similarly low-key rollout.
The long period in beta was a purposeful part of the strategy in building up Findery’s community, which is the central component of the app, Fake tells me.
“We launched the website quietly to grow the community and the content, without doing a lot of advertising of the product or talking to press,” she said. “We didn’t want to have the ‘empty restaurant’ syndrome when people first use it [where people show up on a big launch day and are disappointed by a lack of other users or other content.] The world is a really big place, and this is a really hard problem to solve.”
The long runway has certainly paid off. Now, when you visit Findery, locations as far-ranging as Kyoto, Dubai, and New York City are all packed with notes contributed by dedicated users. If anything, the problem could be that there is too much content to sift through — which is a good problem to have. That’s where features such as NoteMaps, a collection of notes about a similar topic (such as the best tacos across the US or personal memories of NYC gone by) come in handy. Findery also employs an algorithm to promote the most relevant notes to you when you go to a certain location, and Fake says that that technology will get better with time as you use the app.
Findery doesn’t currently have any revenue-generating features. It’s a tricky thing: how do you monetize people’s memories? Fake says that the revenue strategy is still being hashed out. “We had originally thought that we would have sponsored notes, but we find that businesses are using it in more interesting ways than we had expected,” she said, noting that hotels, tour guides, and clothing companies alike are experimenting with Findery. “Right now, we’re watching and seeing what businesses do.”
It’s a beautiful app that’s already attracted a dedicated, tight-knit community of users. It will be fun to see how Findery grows now that it’s open to the world.