Tagwhat’s “Feed” App Serves Up Deals in Right Place at Right Time

4/11/13Follow @MichaelXBD

It’s 4:30 p.m. on a Friday, which means it’s time to wrap up the workweek with coworkers and friends at a local happy hour. You get to pick the place and want to go to someplace new, but you don’t know that many places nearby.

A few blocks away, the owner of a new bar is trying to find customers. The regulars will start filling in soon, but drawing in fresh faces hasn’t been easy. The deals he’s posted on Facebook and Twitter are not reaching enough new people.

Someone wisecracks the barkeeper could stand outside and start shouting. For a moment, he considers the idea. Meanwhile, you decide to stick with your fallback option, again.

A startup based in Boulder, CO, thinks it has found a way to solve your dilemma and the bar owner’s at the same time. The startup is named Tagwhat, and its app, called Feed, scours social media sites, finds what deals are being offered, sorts them by location, and delivers them to nearby consumers.

Feed made its debut on the AppStore in early April, and its goal is to change how businesses find new customers.

“It’s almost like a merchant had a megaphone and they’re broadcasting to everyone in the neighborhood,” Tagwhat CEO Dave Elchoness said.

Right now, Feed searches the pages businesses put up on Facebook and Foursquare, but the company is working to add other social networks as it develops the product.

For years, companies have been using social marketing to promote themselves. In 2012, 11 million businesses had pages on Facebook, but Elchoness believes those businesses have a problem that limits the effectiveness of their marketing. The deals and ads they post mostly go to people who already know about and like the company.

“Merchants are already using Facebook and Foursquare to put these deals in, but they’re not being delivered,” Elchoness said. “Their promotions are designed to attract new people, but new people rarely see them.”

Companies like Groupon offer deals that aren’t timely enough or based on a specific location, he added. For Tagwhat, the goal is to have Feed deliver deals to users in a small geographical area, and for those promotions to be something consumers can act on right away, like a special at a restaurant or bar.

Elchoness said Tagwhat has developed software that lets it scan the streams of social media sites. Algorithms extract information like location, time, and type of offer, and the data is sorted. Feed users receive information that is targeted to them.

Merchants don’t have to do anything new to have their deals appear through Feed, Elchoness said. They just put their deals on social media sites and Feed finds them. They also won’t have to deal with ad salespeople trying to convince them to offer steep discounts or maintain a list of people who have purchased deals.

Tagwhat plans to make money from Feed by offering preferential placement or greater prominence to companies who purchase advertising, Elchoness said.

Tagwhat is building out Feed’s user base and inventory of deals. Several thousand people have downloaded the app, and it has collected about a half-million deals, Elchoness said.

“We have incredible inventory, and we haven’t had to do anything to get it,” he said.

Tagwhat plans to focus on the iPhone app, but the next step is to provide the targeted data it compiles to online publications doing local deals, like local papers, or possibly online dating sites that could let users know about deals at places where they could meet.

Feed originally was a component of Tagwhat, the company’s first app. Tagwhat provides users with an always-updating “mobile tour guide for the world” that features original information about cities, neighborhoods, and landmarks. Tagwhat’s content is geotagged, and when the app is running content can be delivered directly to a user’s device based on where they are. Tagwhat also provides links to external content, such as businesses’ websites, Wikipedia, or YouTube.

When Feed was beta tested in Tagwhat, usage of the app doubled, Elchoness said. That convinced Tagwhat that Feed was promising enough to be a freestanding app with priority over its namesake app.

Tagwhat the app has more than 100,000 users and “many million” geotagged items, which include user-generated articles and links, according to Elchoness. Tagwhat has three employees and is self-funded, but now it needs to start raising money while further developing Feed, he said.

Michael Davidson is the editor of Xconomy Boulder/Denver. He covers startups, venture capital, clean tech, energy, aerospace, telecoms, and whatever else happens above 5,280 feet. Contact him at mdavidson@xconomy.com. Follow @MichaelXBD

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