Back in the day, you would stay in a boutique hotel or visit a popular landmark and sign a guestbook chronicling your visit. But over the past few years, thanks to new mobile technologies, guestbooks have become obsolete. Nowadays, you might write a review on TripAdvisor or even upload an artsy photo to Instagram. With a few swipes of the finger, you’ve posted your location, along with a picture and a witty caption, not to mention tagging your friends. One Israeli newcomer to the virtual check-in arena is Israeli startup Meetey, which hopes to make its geolocation-based guestbook the new frontier in social networking. It is set to release a new, revamped version of its app this May.
Since check-in apps have come and gone in recent years, Meetey is trying to redesign the user experience. However, Meetey developers – much like the ones at Israeli competitor SpaceTag – may need to learn from other location-oriented apps. For example, the trendiness of Foursquare’s check-in app eventually wore off. It had to reinvent itself as it struggled to appeal to users, which are now using mostly Facebook and Instagram.
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Founded in 2012, Meetey is a social network that relies on the geolocations of its users and their local experiences. Anything you experience – from trying a new burger to going to a great concert – can become a post. Additionally, the location at which you upload your post becomes an eternal tag for anyone else to see. What sets Meetey apart from the rest of the pack is the feedback you can get from other users about shared experiences. Meetey also offers the possibility of posting anonymously.
The challenge: gathering additional users in a competitive field
The company currently employs eight full-time employees, and recently opened an office in New York that will house an additional few. The app launched in September 2013, and is set to release a new version in May. The app, available for iPad, iPhone and Android users, prompts the user to either create an account or link a Facebook account. At the home screen of the app, you immediately see local activity. Now, the local Meetey community might not be necessarily “buzzing”, so seeing posts from weeks, even months back is not uncommon.
Even Meetey’s CEO, Tomer Yosef, admitted to NoCamels that the company has “struggled with getting enough engagement and traction into our product”, despite success with user growth. He declined to share the exact number of Meetey’s users. For now, the app still lacks a large enough user base to find people picking up on your activity and relating to your experiences. That aside, the app is easy to use, intuitive and well structured.
Since Meetey also offers to post anonymously, it becomes an inherent target for cyber-bullying. The leadership at Meetey has made it a goal to thwart malicious behavior, and has even hired a full-time monitoring team to help prevent online attacks. The developers have come up with algorithms similar to those of Israeli start-up Red Button, which actively search for keywords and phrases that might indicate hurtful activity.
Meetey launched with an initial seed investment of $1 million from Israeli investment firm GK, led by serial entrepreneur Gal Kalkshtein. The Meetey app is set to relaunch in May at the Collision Conference in Las Vegas, where Yosef will begin to scout investors for a second round of financing. The company is looking to raise an additional $3 to $4 million in the next round. While Meetey is surviving on investments now and its eventual business plan is to monetize in-app, integrated advertising.
The rise and fall of check-in apps
Foursquare, too, has been struggling with user retention (like any other app in the category); also, after Facebook’s 2012 acquisition of Instagram, its user base shot up to nearly 300 million users, six times as much as Foursquare’s current number.
Foursquare attempted a product redesign to keep up with its competition, but the Facebook empire has continued to rule the market. With former Foursquare users now mostly on Facebook and Instagram, it will be interesting to see how Meetey plans to keep up with such major competitors and avoid a similar, Foursquare-esque demise.
Another competitor in this sector is American company Nextdoor, which has developed a similar platform to those of Israeli SpaceTag and Meetey. However, it’s much farther along in fundraising— raising an impressive $100 million so far.
It remains to be seen whether Meetey will make the right move with its upcoming redesign, and be able to compete with mega social networks.