Mobile

Locai slims down to focus on check-in conversations

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For Locai, which makes an iPhone app that lets you have conversations around check-in locations, less is more.

The Dallas, Texas-based company is launching the second version of its free iPhone app today, which strips out confusing features from its first iteration and focuses on making it easy for you to start conversations with other people checked-in to locations.

On the chopping block from the first Locai app are Klout-like gamification features that allowed you to earn a reputation at locations, and a “hosting” feature that let you become a major voice at places (similar to how Foursquare’s mayorships work). In an interview with VentureBeat, Locai CEO Taylor Cavanah said he hopes to bring back those features eventually (especially the hosting bit).

“We’re already an added level of complexity above check-ins, so we really didn’t need the added game layer [right now],” Cavanah told me.

The app will continue to track check-in habits so that users will be able to get up and rolling when the gamification features are added back at a later date.

For now, the company is focusing on the core conversation experience. “Foursquare has done a great job of training people to take their phones out and use them at places,” Cavanah said. Locai is aiming to take advantage of that behavior by offering users something beyond the initial check-in. “We want to give people a place to go on their phone that’s linked directly with the place and experience they’re having,” he said.

At first glance, Locai resembles many check-in focused services like Foursquare and Sonar. There’s a feed of news available from your friends, and you can start conversations at locations via the “Find Me” section. Conversations, which involve asking questions, posting pictures, or just sharing your opinion, can be shared with all of your friends, a trusted circle of friends, Facebook and Twitter. Cavanah tells me that the company avoided offering a full-on chat solution because it didn’t want to distract from the experience users were having in the real world.

The company is also working on a conversation discovery tab that will show off the most popular conversations on Locai. It’ll be a new way for you to find nearby conversations, as well as those in your city or across the country. An Android version of the app is on the way as well.

Cavanah said he eventually hopes Locai will be used by local business and brands to start conversations. “There is a tremendous amount of data generated in this space and brands and local businesses will pay for it. We have more interaction between users and places, so we will have richer data. Version 2 of the app has our business offering built in already, and we’ll be rolling it out with partners very soon,” he said in a blog post this morning. Currently, Locai has partnerships with IFC and local businesses in Dallas, Texas.

Locai is currently self-funded with $70,000 from the founders, and it is seeking a $500,000 seed round. Cavanah tells me he plans to head to San Diego next to focus on the LA ad market.

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