|Hi-tech hitchhiking startup
||[Sep. 10th, 2008|01:03 pm]
Five months ago, I predicted that hi-tech hitchhiking would be coming soon. "Avego," the first of such services launched yesterday by a company called Mapflow.
While the idea will almost certainly catch on at some point, whether or not this particular avatar will succeed remains to be seen. I'd say two things are crucial if they are to beat the critical mass problem: having a low burn rate, and doing phased rollouts.
Currently, the penetration of GPS capable phones is simply not enough to let this service take off. Worse, changing public perception takes years. I wonder if Mapflow has entered the market too early. At the least, they will need to ensure that they can keep the service around for 3-5 years to see this come to fruition. They are not a startup, so they aren't going to go bankrupt, but since they probably don't have an unlimited budget to sink on their Avego product, they'd still need to keep a low burn rate.
Secondly, location based services benefit greatly from phased city-by-city rollouts, with focused advertising campaigns to build critical userbases in each city until the process can sustain itself on a global level. Studying propagation in social networks is part of my current research project, so I'm pretty confident about my opinion. Mapflow seems to be doing the opposite, launching "worldwide."
I'm still hopeful, though. Let's wait and see.