Apptera, the mobile communications and ad company backed by $30 million from Alloy, Lightspeed Ventures, and others, is today launching a second mobile app to join what had been, until now, its flagship product: the Android dialer replacement, Poptuit, which debuted around this time last year.
The new app is a friend-powered recommendation engine called Raved, and it’s available first for iOS.
The app works by aggregating your Facebook friends’ likes and check-ins, as well as friends’ check-ins from Foursquare, and then presents those to you in a very Pinterest-like interface. There’s a search bar at the top, so you can find places your friends have visited and liked (e.g. search for “sushi,” “coffee,” “gym,” etc.). However, the app’s default screen just shows you top recommendations from those two networks, across all categories.
Apptera CEO Henry Vogel tells me that Raved was designed to fill a niche somewhere in between Yelp and Foursquare. There’s a couple of problems with online reviews (like Yelp), he says. “They’re sort of untrustworthy…and they tend to draw the extremes. There are people that really dislike a place and get motivated to write a review, or they really like a place. You have to do a lot of work shifting through the reviews, seeing how many there are, and reading them,” he says. “We think there’s an opening there in augmenting that information…with the information from the people that you know and trust.”
He also points out that on social apps like Foursquare, there’s only a small percentage of users contributing content. That’s why adding Facebook to the mix helps to provide a better view of what all your friends like and recommend. On Facebook, Vogel says there are around 10-15 places that friends have liked, on average. Combined, that leads to a lot more social data the app can access and aggregate.
While the interface is appealing and simple (gotta love that Pinterest grid, right?) and all the above are some valid points, it’s hard to say there’s enough here to really draw users away from Facebook, Foursquare, or other preferred local recommendation apps like Yelp, Google+ Local, AroundMe, etc. While, yes, reviews can be untrustworthy to some extent, the local business reviews apps offer far more detailed information than Raved does at present. And if you’re looking for a friend’s recommendation to put you over the top, Foursquare has enough traction now to generally suffices, even if the active user base (those checking in and writing tips) is small.
However, Raved plans to grow beyond being just a Facebook/Foursquare platform app. In the future, it will include busy news feeds of place activities pulled from those platforms as well as from Twitter, and will determine whether the local business is offering a deal or discount by aggregating from a network of local offers, deal sites, and Facebook Offers. (This also points to the business model, by the way). And Vogel says that plans to integrate services like OpenTable and GrubHub are planned, too, not only to beef up the content, but also to generate affiliate revenue.
Why is a cash-flow positive ad business so interested in building apps, you might ask? “We just think there’s more opportunity and we’re going where the consumers are going with smartphones,” he says. Be on the lookout for more focus on Raved in the near future from this company.