Former Friendster Founder Launches PlacePop

'Location' may be considered social media's Holy Grail. With the smartphone explosion cyber-ventillating exponentially, a new category of social networks have emerged to capitalize on the monetary rewards that have eluded traditional social networks like Twitter. While a good number of Location-based social networks (LBSs) with their check-in functionality and game-like components are filling this void, is there room for latecomers like PlacePop to enter this already crowded field?

Location-based social networksLocation-based social networksIn interviewing Kent Lindstrom, the former CEO of Friendster today, he and hisKent LindstromKent Lindstrom company Ooga Labs seem to think so and have taken on the challenge. PlacePop according to Lindstrom will differentiate itself from other location-based social networks by becoming "a dead-simple app that reduces the 'mobile location' experience to its essence, much like Facebook did compared to MySpace."

When quizzing Lindstrom as to how he will differentiate PlacePop from the likes of Foursquare, Gowalla, Brightkite and MyTown who all gained a foothold in the market last year, he sees it as such: "In my experience, the first movers rarely end up winning, because of the enormous burden of pioneering. Lycos, and even his own former company Friendster were all eventually exceeded by the likes of Google, Amazon and Facebook."

While Lindstrom holds a lot of respect for the early LBS pioneers, he feels PlacePop will appeal to a broader audience, "especially people who don't care for the game aspects of other applications." While similar to some of the other LBSs, PlacePop users gain status by check-ins (e.g. 10 check-ins equate to silver status). It will however not offer mayoral-ships or point-system badges like Foursquare. "While these are fun elements," he thinks these components are too complicated for the mainstream demographic he is looking to attract. Using the KISS principle, Lindstrom has chosen to "keep it simple."

PlacePop Check-in Silver StatusPlacePop Check-in Silver Status

Over time, PlacePop users will be able to "collect" the places they go by building a "placelist" and posting photos that they can access at any time on their iPhone.

As far as a business model and monetization, Lindstrom thinks it's just too early to determine the best route to take. "It is such a wide open space now, that I think getting it right for the users and businesses is key first, and (then) we will experiment with many business models before we settle on what works for (those) businesses and users alike."

Regarding the 'Cost Per Check-in' ad model that Foursquare is favoring, Lindstrom thinks an LBS "needs to be respectful of businesses. In particular, we don't want to be driving traffic from one store to the competitor." In the 'Cost Per Check-in,' system, small businesses like restaurants and bars would pay a location-based social network like Foursquare a pre-determined fee for each check-in that was generated by that LBS. (For more on this topic, see "Cost Per Check-in: Has Foursquare Initiated A New Ad Model?"

"We want to be sure we are creating value for businesses - letting them connect to customers while being able to generate new ones," notes Lindstrom. "We'll figure out an appropriate way to charge them for that, probably closer to the "Groupon's model than an ad model." (note: The Groupon model only charges when an offer triggers enough consumers to take a deal).

In Lindstom's estimation, it will take 3-5 years before there is a clear leader in the LBS space. "Lots of folks will use location services, in many different ways, and interesting games, utilities and apps we haven't imagined are likely to emerge."  And if Lindstrom has his way, he wants to be the number choice for consumers and businesses at the end of that long road.  As he puts it, "I am 100% focused on PlacePop...and want it to become the ubiquitous application for connecting people and places."

Let's check back in 2011 and see if Lindstrom and PlacePop are successful in meeting their longer term goal. Like the tortoise versus the hare, they may have been slow at the gate - but let's see if they have enough persistence and fortitude to make it to the finish line over the long haul.

Guess which one is PlacePop?Guess which one is PlacePop?