Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake has just launched Findery, a global location-based story-sharing mobile app, after two years spent testing the concept and building up both a community and a critical mass of content.

Findery launches worldwide location-based story-sharing app

There are many websites and mobile apps in existence which provide information, advice and recommendations on places, events and trips, using geolocation functionality, social network sharing and all kinds of community interaction. Increasingly, users want to interact with their peers in order to have this type of information at hand, directly on their smartphones. This is what prompted Caterina Fake, co-founder of photo-sharing site Flickr, to create Findery, an app that enables users to geolocate their stories – or weave stories around given locations. The Findery developers’ aim is to provide a means to transpose into the digital world stories that are generally recounted orally, and in doing so breathe new life into places, venues and landmarks. The service, which has features similar to Foursquare, Twitter, TripAdvisor and others, was first launched in 2012 in Australia under the name of Pinwheel, and was officially re-launched globally on 6 March, following a full re-vamp based on feedback on the beta version in Australia. The startup has raised a total of $9.5 million in funding from Redpoint Ventures, True Ventures, Betaworks and other angel investors.

Digitizing oral stories

After launching the website quietly two years ago with a view to building up a community and sufficient content, Findery is now making available an iOS app. You can also access it via your desktop web browser. Users can take photos, video and notes from a given place and mark them on an interactive digital map so as to share them with other users. Findery uses GPS to automatically recognize the place corresponding to a given post. These notes and illustrations may include historical facts, plus personal anecdotes and users’ recollections. The notes are on average a hundred words long – i.e. generally longer than tweets and shorter than blog posts –and are usually accompanied by a photo of the author. In addition, they may be made public or restricted to a defined group. The social aspect of the app is boosted by users being able to follow other users or friends, or the public version of NoteMaps – a collection of notes about a similar topic, theme or place. Basically it is a crowdsourcing notepad, which could be a magazine, or a ‘to-do’ list for a specific area. At the moment however the startup does not have any revenue-generating features.

First things first: creating community and content

While many online companies now espouse a ‘mobile first’ strategy, Catarina Fake’s move to launch the service as a website two years ago was intended to ensure a build-up of note collections. It is easier for users to write lengthy stories on a computer than on a mobile phone app, she points out. Although the Findery app is currently only available for iOS, the mobile web version works perfectly on other platforms and an Android app should be available soon. The long period in beta in Australia was a purposeful part of the founder’s strategy in building up Findery’s strong community and quality content, as this is the core element of the service, before moving to extend the platform. Fake wanted to avoid the ‘empty restaurant’ syndrome, where people show up on a big launch day and are disappointed by a lack of other users or other content. But users might on the other hand desert the site later if there is too much content to sift through. This is where Notemaps, which helps you to select content, comes in. In addition, Findery employs an algorithm to promote the most relevant notes to you when you go to a given location, and Fake says that that feature will get better with time, learning about your preferences as you continue to use the app regularly.

By Manon Garnier