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Location: Austin, Texas
Founders: Josh Williams, Scott Raymond
Funding: $10.4 million
Not many people can say that the weather was their main inspiration for launching a startup, but that’s exactly what happened to Gowalla cofounder and chief executive Josh Williams. After experiencing some rolling fog in South Lake Tahoe, Williams snapped a photo with his iPhone and called his dad. He found himself wishing he could capture that moment, share it with friends, and save it to the Web somewhere. A few weeks later, Williams and cofounder Scott Raymond, now Gowalla’s CTO, had a working prototype that was the beginnings of one of the leading location-based services today. We caught up with Williams to talk more about how he’s trying to change the way people think about location.
Why did you start the company?
My cofounder Scott and I were coming off of building a successful cult-hit social game on Facebook, but we wanted to build something bigger and more ambitious. I drew up some sketches based on my South Lake Tahoe experience, emailed them to Scott, and a couple weeks later we had a working prototype. We’ve been running ever since.
What’s the coolest place you checked into recently?
Iguazu Falls in Argentina.
When did you realize it was working?
Oddly, the moment I realized, “Wow, this is out of my hands,” was a Saturday morning back in May. I launched Gowalla to find that the top “Hot Spot” was an event called Eeyore’s Birthday Party. Nearly 100 people had checked in at this random hippie event that I had no idea existed, posting photos and generally having a great time.
What’s next for the location-based industry and services?
Location is transitioning from “feature” status into a core pillar of the Web — especially the mobile Web. In as few as 18 months, it will be difficult to imagine services that are at least not in some way augmented by location.
VentureBeat recently interviewed Gowalla cofounder and CTO Scott Raymond on the launch of Facebook Places, a check-in service that he believes Gowalla can build on rather than compete with:
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