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Location-aware free iPhone app Igobubble relaunched its latest version this week, with a face-lift of its user experience, an all-over redesign of its brand and graphics, and a new set of features to boot. The social discovery app allows users to meet new people nearby and share photos, videos and messages in virtual living bubbles at real world locations.
Irish co-founder Kieran Galvin talked to VentureBeat syndication partner VentureVillage about this social network with a difference, and the creative, quirky bubbles people leave behind around the world…
Hi Kieran, tell us how you came up with the idea of Igobubble.
My co-founder Jade Burton and I had been kicking different ideas around for years. We really wanted to develop a social network that wasn’t about who you already knew but who was nearby that you didn’t know. We fine-tuned the idea over beer in Sank Oberholz Café in Berlin.
What makes you different from other location-based discovery apps?
Igobubble is the only social discovery app that allows users to discover and share virtual content that can be anchored at real world locations, or can be carried on a smartphone. We also use Darwinian principles of evolution so the content can actually grow, divide, and spread virally based on popularity. Users can interact directly with bubbles to make them grow or deflate.
Tell us about the new version that’s out
There are great new dynamic new features such as a worldwide feed of activity, popularity lists, easy people discovery, and the ability to remotely drop bubbles at any location in the world.
Why is Igobubble’s based in both Berlin and London?
Berlin was an organic development because our CTO lives there and we were able to access human capital at competitive prices. It’s a cutting-edge city with a creative vibe. Basically we like it.
London offers us access to capital markets and proximity to our target demographic. Other than New York, no other city has the same density of iPhones, and people who mainly use public transport. It’s also a city of migrants, and we hope that our users in London will spread Igobubble to their friends in other countries.
Who are the founders, what have you done before, and how did you find each other?
Jade Burton is our CTO. He’s a software engineer with 13 years experience in many languages and also teaches iOS development. I’m the CEO and have 15 years of business management experience, with most in film, TV, and animation production.
We met 11 years ago in a queue outside a nightclub in Melbourne, Australia and have been friends since then.
What are the most interesting bubbles you’ve seen on the platform?
People marking locations by leaving bubbles that commemorate events that happened there, from simple ones like, “This is where I learned to swim” to funnier ones like, “This is where I lost my virginity.” The best things have context, so we find that bubbles shared by small groups of friends or clubs tend to be dynamic and spread quickly.
What is your business model?
Igobubble will always be a free app, but we will introduce premium features, tools, and content levels and provide exceptional opportunities for channel partners to use the platform to really engage the audience. We’re not interested in bombarding our users with ads. We think it can be a much more interesting two-way communication between brands and users.
Who is financing you?
We’ve raised nearly a million dollars from private angel investors and small VCs. That sounds like a lot of money in European startup terms, but we’re doing something as big as Foursquare and Instagram, and they had funds of around $53m and $70m respectively. So we’re definitely bootstrapped even at this level.
Is there something that you’re missing? An employee, an investor, or an office?
It’s hard finding talented programmers these days. Our door is always open. We also need a marketing guru, interns, and evangelists, and we’re actually in the middle of another round of capital raising right now, so investors who add value are especially welcome.
Any advice you’d give to fellow startups?
A tech startup is a business, not just a pathway to developing software. The hard work starts when the software is ready. Especially in the apps market, which is congested and it’s difficult to get attention. Focus on the business on a holistic level from day one.
Where will you be in a year’s time?
We’ll have expanded the number of apps in our repertoire by leveraging off the Igobubble platform because it can be used in many exciting ways.
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