GoWalla Reemerges to Reinvent SoLoMo

Gowalla has been reborn. Some may remember it as the late 2000’s local check-in app that mostly played second-fiddle to Foursquare before being bought by Facebook and receding into obscurity. Now it’s back for more SoLoMo action with $4 million in fresh seed funding this week.

In its reincarnated form, Gowalla will focus on geo-relevant AR experiences. This not only keeps it true to its location-based roots — including resources and competency — but allows it to tap into Gen-Z’s affinity for the camera. This is something that’s been cultivated and validated by Snapchat.

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Gamifying Local

Gowalla’s new product and UX details are scant, but from what we can gather, it will offer gamified experiences for creating geo-anchored content and discovering places. If that sounds familiar, it’s the high-level concept behind the original Gowalla (and Foursquare), a la badges and leaderboards.

Though that concept may seem passe, there’s still ample opportunity in socially-fueled and gamified local experiences. The novelty that Gowalla hopes to infuse is in the visual and immersive aspects of the experience: Hold up your phone to reveal hidden game elements or notes that friends have left for you.

That’s mostly our speculation based on early clues. To provide more color, co-founder Patrick Piemonte, tells TechCrunch that it takes inspiration from the social side of TikTok and the platform side of Roblox. The latter could mean it’s a sort of multi-player game (MMO) for the real world.

Gowalla also hopes to create stickiness through user incentives. That could be gamified elements as noted (points, badges, leaderboards, etc.), as well as monetary rewards such as discounts for partner locations (our speculation). That last part is easier said than done from an SMB sales perspective.

Speaking of which, early revenue models can be seen in the product’s “Street Team” feature. Users will pay a flat $49/year fee to gain VIP membership and perks that they’ll access through the dedicated Street Team App (see below). There they can access a private Discord group and branded swag.

These moves will be followed by the app’s wider rollout later in 2021. As for its funding round this week, investors include GV and Spark Capital, Niantic, Upside Partnership, Otherwise Fund, Capital Factory, Form Capital, and angels that notably include Foursquare’s Dennis Crowley.

Formidable Competition

Back to Snapchat, it has validated AR as a popular Gen-Z use case. Bringing interactive and socially-fueled lenses to local discovery is the next evolutionary step. In fact, Snapchat is doing just that with its Local Lenses, which let users create geo-anchored AR graphics for others to discover.

And it’s not alone. Every major AR player is infusing some form of geo-location. That includes Google Lens and Live View (Internet of Places), Niantic’s Real World Platform, and Apple’s Geo Anchors.  They each recognize the value AR can bring to local discovery and commerce (especially Google).

Gowalla joins this mix, which has formidable competitors in terms of reach advantage. But Gowalla may have an edge in its competencies with building location-based experiences. That’s an advantage that others continue to build in the AR world, most notably Niantic (one of Gowalla’s investors).

Meanwhile, Gowalla original founder Josh Williams is motivated to make Gowalla work after seeing it fade away in its first incarnation. He’s joined this time by co-founder Patrick Piemonte, who previously worked at Apple as an interface designer and founded an AR startup called Mirage. We’ll be watching closely.

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