Start-up spotlight: askalo builds social user base for hyper-local Q&A
What does it take to build a fully-functional social network from scratch? Users, and lots of them. But how do you convince the public that this new network is worth their time? For askalo, the six-month-old location-based Q&A network, the key is to hit the social niche with a game-based pitch. And, to go hyper-local.
It’s all about being different, fun and useful. This is the aim for askalo, whose service is best understood as a mix between Yahoo Answers, Yelp and Foursquare. Klaus Gapp, founder and CEO of Germany’s Yalwa, askalo’s parent company, explained the inspiration behind the site in this way:
We wanted to provide a place where everyone can find local information that meets any specific need they have. Users can get different opinions from other people on various local topics, meet people with similar interests, and interact with each other while having a good time.
The service works like this: Users sign up and create a personalized account with helpful information on their home town (or city) and their interests. They then post location-based questions. For example, who is the best orthodontist in my town? Users are then there to weigh in. The more useful the posts to the whole of the community, the more points and awards users receive, so the service becomes something like a Foursquare location-based game except the rewards depend on the votes of fellow users.
“We put special emphasis on having personally tailored Q&A sessions, so users are able to discover their specific interests in any given place and connect with others that share those interests around them,” Jesse Woods, askalo’s USA Country Manager, told SMI. In fact, the service has a “friending” system where individual users can connect and engage in the built-in instant messaging service.
But the real magic of the service, Woods told us, is the emphasis on the location. By early next year the company will fragment the structure of the site so it becomes even more hyper-local. Instead of being focused on cities and towns, users will be able to pinpoint neighborhoods, zip codes and even geographical coordinates. The company is also set to release a mobile version of the site around the same time.
But how to boost the hype participation? When askalo was launched in July the company set up an iPad giveaway competition that got the initial traffic and user base pumping. From this gimmick, askalo has seen a larger following of travelers who are making use of the service in order to have the experience of a native when in unfamiliar surroundings.
Askalo too is in an impressive amount of markets – it’s in 38 countries, 1,000 cities and five languages. Still, that’s not quite enough mass yet to get the response rate up. We’ve browsed a few cities and see a fair number of queries unanswered, like this one:
The “best room service” for a London hotel? Perhaps there is no such place. But there is a suggestion for a good language school. You have to start somewhere.