E098: – Josh Williams, CEO of Gowalla



about this episode

This week Jason sits down with CEO and Founder of Gowalla.com. The New Social Network Platform that links all your favorite social media portals into one simple mobile application. No episode would be complete without an Ask Jason and a special segment of the News with This Week In’s Mike Bracco.

Gowalla is a location-based service that helps people keep up with their friends, share their favorite places, and discover the world around them. Users can connect with friends on their iPhone, Android, Blackberry or Palm smartphones—as well as on the web.

Based in Austin, Texas, Gowalla was launched in 2009 by Josh Williams and Scott Raymond. The company is backed by investors including Greylock Partners, Alsop-Louie Partners, Founders Fund, and other prominent angel investors.

Follow Josh Williams: twitter.com/jw

Follow Gowalla: twitter.com/gowalla

Ep 98

Today on This Week in Startups Josh Williams of Gowalla. I’ll take your questions on Ask Jason, and our very own —

Jason talks about the difficulty getting the big guest.


Josh Williams of Gowalla

Josh announces their big release of Gowalla 3.0, which federates check-in to multiple services.

Jason asks about the start of Gowalla. Josh give the background of the product. He talks about a time he snapped a photo from Tahoe and that was the beginning of the ‘passport’ metaphor.

The growth of Gowalla has been built on crowd sourcing of location checkins, and now is turning to curation, a la Wikipedia.

Jason asks about going from the ‘a ha’ moment to jumping into the startup. Josh describes the leap of faith they took. Why the relocated to Austin and how they tapped into the energy of the Austin startup scene.

Josh task about the evolution of check-in. Facebook to Twitter to Check-in.

Jason asks about the value of design in Gowalla. Josh talks about the UX focused on by Gowalla and talks about the relationship with Disney. Jason talks about the Disney experienced he had recently. Josh talks about a charm bracelet that his mom owned, that each charm had a story.

Josh talks about some of the future of mobile devices and location in regards to deals.

Jason asks about the strict policy of using check-in based on the GPS. Josh explains why they needed to loosen the stringency because of the difference in devices.

Jason asks about competing with Foursquare on features. Josh talks about Gowalla versus Foursquare and how they are a bit different from their strategy.

Jason asks about Facebook entering the space and how that impacts the space. Josh talks about the situation and gives his thoughts about location in general.

Josh talks about the check-in in Gowalla 3.0. Many users are still not on any location based services.

@twistfanboy are there any disadvantages to being located in Austin? Josh talks about the pros and cons of being in Austin.

Josh decries Gowalla’s culture as FUN, IRREVERENT, AUTHENTIC. He talks about the value of great culture.

Provides fully hosted / managed Microsoft Exchange and Google Apps e-mail

Jason asks about the board discussion around federating check-ins. Josh gives the backstory.

Now that Gowalla is kicked off, is it time to go elsewhere? Josh talks about the possibility of opening a office otside of Austin.

Is there an International frontier? Crowdsourcing has opened up the international locations. About 45% of the usage of Gowalla is outside the US.

Josh talks about fundraising and M&A discussions. He’s not anxious to sell, but rather build the best product possible.

Jason talks about getting his own avatar on Gowalla.

Jason aska about leaving items and trail of items is the forgotten feature of Gowalla. Josh explains how it works and why it makes sense. He describes that it’s a little bit esoteric and hasn’t really taken off.

Ask Jason

Patrick White from Monterrey CA.

[a few technical difficulties]

Jason and Josh reprise the discussion of Gowalla. Fundraising, number of employees etc.

[Back with Patrick]

Ally software product called Harmony, which is a project management tool. Patrick talks about the challenge of getting his product out in the hands of customers and getting them to use the product.

His question is how do you pivot and increase the usage without a lot of data coming back from your user base?

Jason discusses the two phenomenon’s about building a project that they think is correct, but nobody wants it, and those that are so specific (usually to solve their own problem) and the focus is too narrow or complex

Josh talks about how Gowalla uses the tool for themselves, but simplicity is admirable. What is your point of view…

Tyler talks about project management and how difficult it is to get it right for everybody. That’s why there are so many project management tools out there.

Patrick second question is about getting angel interest or funding interest without much success. How can you get tapped in? How can you get feedback to improve?

Jason talks about the difficulty of giving feedback for an angel/VC. There are so many requests that it’s impossible to respond to everybody.

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