This post is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark as a new part of the Spark of Genius series that focuses on a new and innovative startup each day. Every Thursday, the program focuses on startups within the BizSpark program and what they’re doing to grow.
Long before Foursquare was even conceived, another location service by the name of Loopt was connecting friends via location. Today the location network boasts upwards of four million members and promises to debut a new growth-accelerating release late next week.
Over the years, Loopt has evolved to incorporate checkins and amalgamate into three spin-off experiences designed for iPad discovery (Loopt Pulse), location-based branded rewards (Loopt Star) and serendipitous meetings (Loopt Mix).
Along the way, Loopt has also shaped trends around location and pushed the boundaries of mobile phone technology. Still, the company’s best innovations may still be in front of them.
Loopt is anything but the also-ran location service living in someone else’s shadow. While Foursquare focuses its service around tips and to-dos, Loopt is busy ramping up the features in all of its mobile apps.
Innovation is the name of Loopt’s game, and the most significant technological update to date has been Loopt’s triumphant return to automatic location-sharing functionality.
In June, the startup launched a new feature for letting users automatically discover nearby friends. Tapping into background location and proximity awareness on iPhone and Andriod, Loopt can figure out when you’re friends are in the immediate vicinity and will send you an update accordingly.
The automatic proximity awareness functionality actually makes possible the idea that both Foursquare and Facebook Places promise — serendipitous get-togethers.
Location and X-Ray Vision
CEO Sam Altman won’t disclose the specifics on what we can expect in next week’s big release, but his vision around the evolution of the app may hold some clues to the truth.
“One goal of ours is for Loopt is to become your super x-ray vision,” Altman says.
He paints a picture where augmented reality meets location in a practical but futuristic fashion.
“You’re sitting in your office or in a bar looking at your phone; we can help you see things in the real world you couldn’t normally see — a cafe three blocks over that your friends are in right now, a special offer down the street, a restaurant that a lot of your friends frequent, etc. We can bridge the virtual and real worlds and help people have a better experience in the real one; this seems to really resonate with users,” he tells us.
Mass Market Potential
Loopt has never openly disclosed revenue, but in February of this year, Altman told BusinessWeek that his company makes most of its revenue from advertising and has been approached by potential buyers in the past.
Loopt’s real revenue potential could be in how can it delivers for brand partners. Loopt Star is the mobile app that offers branded-rewards and badge-like achievements for checkins. The experience is tailored to the mobile consumer looking for a deeply discounted location-based deal, and is proving to be a big money-maker for partners.
Virgin America, for instance, worked with Loopt on a promotion that offered two-for-one tickets to Cancun and Los Cabos to members who checked in — using the Loopt Star iPhone app — at special Virgin America taco trucks or SFO and LAX airports.
It was a four hour long promotion that netted 1,300 checkins at a single San Francisco taco truck and resulted in 80% of those individuals going on to book flights. The day became the fifth highest sales day in Virgin America’s history.
Such a remarkably successful endeavor means that Loopt can help its partners make big bucks and profit by pocketing a percentage in the process — a revenue-friendly formula we already know works thanks to Groupon’s success.
Loopt has the members and the startup has proven that it can deliver the goods, but Altman believes the company’s carrier and device partnerships will help it extend its reach even further. “Preloads have been a large driver of growth for us in the past and we’ll have some new announcements around that soon,” he says.
Image courtesy of jlapoutre, Flickr
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By Mashable: http://www.mashable.com