Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Geckogo: start up surprise #2 from PhoCusWright 2009

Travel Guides & Vacation Planning - GeckoGoThe " "PhoCusWright surprise" occurs when I meet an online travel start up(s) at PhoCusWright that I have never heard of but is (are) number one in their category by some reasonable measure. Yesterday's surprise was Localyte.

Surprise number 2 - Geckogo

Geckogo - is a travel planning and inspiration site that want to solve the "too much information" problem by allowing travellers to aggregate content from social networks, friends recommendations and use that information to build trip plans. They claim to sit in between the travel aggregation sites like UpTake / NileGuide / TravelMuse and travel social network sites like WhereIveBeen and TravBuddy. Though I am not sure I yet see the gap. That said, I see the value of content company with social media interaction. The challenge for a business targeting that space is how to collect information and establish an index.

Geckogo founders Pokin Yeung and Eric Mackinnon are coming at the challenge through building a Facebook application called travel brain. It allows consumers to load cities and destinations visited (like TripAdvisor's Cities I've visited). The difference with TA's app is that Geckogo gives users a chance to increase their "score" by adding information about a destination. This rewards consumers for generating more content and engaging further with Geckogo. The result was that the Facebook app is the main content acquisition tool and consumer point of interaction for Geckgo. In addition partnership with Bradt Travel guides has helped populated editorial content on the site.

With Facebook as a driver, Geckogo claims to have attracted a network of 700,000 users - with 8% of those contributing content regularly. Results in 250,000 articles mainly collected from Facebook users - parsed and classified through their information architecture. Eric described part of the architecture as a "synonym database" that prompts contributors to help flesh-out areas that need more information. For example a casino in a destination means gambling but gambling as an activity in a destination will prompt a question on whether or not their is a casino.

This is where the surprise factor came in. I have talked before about what content companies need to do to succeed. My definition of success has always been SEO raking and traffic. Yet in Geckogo we have a online travel content company where early success has come from the using Facebook as a distribution and content acquisition mechanism. They made me feel a little old and outdated in continuing to believe that search is the number one battleground for traffic.

Being Facebook dependent is beneficial for Geckogo as their competitive set is lower. But in my interview with Pokin and Eric at PhoCusWright they admitted that Facebook dependence comes with risks. Just like a change in the Google search algorithm can send SEO dependent companies from the top of the world to the bottom of page 5, so too a Facebook change has dramatic impacts on Geckogo. When Facebook moved from a profile based page structure to the more twitter like newsfeed structure, Pokin admitted that usage dropped dramatically. Geckogo had to rebuild the way the app interacted to support the new approach.

Still in the angel funding stage Geckogo knows they have more money to raise and work to do. Eric admitted they are looking or about four times as much content before they will be able to answer the level of questions they are targeting. In addition to more content they should also work on the query architecture to help drive more responses and customer interaction. But the surprise factor success is there - Geckogo claim to be the number one content contributor on Facebook (but not the biggest app). Update - see below

For a bit more information on Geckogo check out their presentation from the Facebook app targeted fbFund. Also a story on the same presentation from UpTake industry blog written by Elliot Ng.

Update. Geckogo founder Pokin comments below. Here is an extract

"I should also clarify our claim of being the number one travel content source on Facebook. As a blanket statement that was absolutely true when we posted it, but I can’t validate that now since our friends at Where I’ve Been have also started collecting content as well. I believe we continue to be the number #1 source on Facebook for travellers to gain meaningful travel insight and help one another in their travel plans."

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