Loopt CEO: We’re Happy Not To Be in Foursquare Versus Gowalla “Battle”

Mobile social mapping service Loopt’s 3.5 million users in the United States dwarf that of Foursquare and Gowalla, who count about 500,000 and 100,000 users, respectively. Despite that fact, much of the chatter about location-based services here at the South by Southwest conference has been framed as “Foursquare versus Gowalla.”

That’s fine with Loopt CEO Sam Altman. Altman sees his company as a different kind of service than Foursquare or Gowalla. Loopt is taking a “hybrid” approach, Altman told WebNewser today, providing both “live tracking” and the “check in” model, which Foursquare is mostly known for. With Loopt, “you don’t have to check in to have a constantly updated map,” said Altman, adding, “mainstream users tend to be more lazy.”

As The New York Times‘ Jenna Wortham recently noted, the “live tracking” model poses a challenge for iPhone users, as the iPhone currently doesn’t allow apps to keep running in the background for continuous monitoring. However, this could change soon, said Altman.

With Loopt, users choose exactly what information they want to make public, and where they want to publish it. This includes the usual suspects of Facebook and Twitter.

“You can’t type in to Google, ‘parties in Austin tonight,'” and get relevant, up to the minute results, said Altman. With Loopt you can.

“In the last year we’ve seen this change, where we’ve hit a critical mass on smartphone penetration with data plans and continued excitement about these services,” he said.

“Ten years ago the most requested feature in phones was a camera. That has shifted to GPS capabilities,” he said. Loopt has deals in place with Sprint, Verizon and AT&T, and the company still generates most of its revenue from these deals, where carriers pay Loopt to bundle the service onto new phones, Altman said.

However, “location based coupons are increasingly part of our revenue,” said Altman. He said brands are eager to set up loyalty programs with the service.

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