Today a company I am advising has launched in the press and will soon be available in the Apple App Store. They are called Stalqer and, as Techcrunch writes, they are basically Foursquare on steroids.
I think that's a pretty good description. The fact is, however, the most impressive thing about Stalqer is not what it does but how it does it. Rather than approaching acquisition and retention of users like any typical app , it uses data portability, viral loops and network effects to on-board and engage users on an ongoing basis.
Not enough app developers consider this when engineering their user experiences and the result is usually a big 'Techcrunch' launch and a big flame out as users flock for a 5 minute road test and never return.
Mick (CEO of Stalqer) and his team, however, have almost turned virality and network effects it into a science.
Here are some of the highlights of their product decisions.
- Instead of building yet another registration and friending system, they simply import your Facebook Friends.
- Instead of being content to be confined by Facebook's data licensing limitations, they merge and mingle FB data with other data sources (in this case, your phone's address book!) to access email addresses and phone numbers.
- Instead of assuming that their app lives in a vacuum, they are using other data sources (Facebook, Phone Book and eventually others) to aggregate location data and make a best guess at friend locations even if they aren't using the app.
- Instead of being limited by their active user base, they encourage existing users to manipulate and optimize profiles of non-users - the effect being that even if you don't use Stalqer, chances are one of your friends is doing the work of checking you in. Don't like where they put you - then sign up and get back control!
- Instead of letting the multitasking limitations of the iPhone limit their background tracking capabilities, they innovated their way out of the problem using amazing email tricks.
The list of innovations goes on and on.
The Stalqer team have done an amazing job of baking in the right workflows to ensure maximum adoption and engagement based on their primary use case (discovering people around you) without resorting to raw gaming tricks like points and badges.
I can't wait to see how the app performs and what they do next!
As a side note, I too have been experimenting with non-obvious network effects in my day-job. More on that later...