Android Central

Last month we checked out a social business discovery app called Raved, which takes Facebook likes from friends, and cross references them with local businesses to offer users a categorized list of shops vouched for by those they know. We had a chat with Raved CEO Henry Vogel about making the app and the particular challenges businesses face with location-based marketing.

Hi Henry, thanks for your time. Is business discovery a problem that needs to be solved?

While there are other services focused on local business discovery, we believe no one has yet leveraged one of the best sources of recommendations: your friends. And beyond discovery, storing and easily accessing those recommendations along and key place info on mobile devices where users most often need it, remains quite cumbersome.

Since time immemorial, people have turned to their friends to get trusted referrals. Everyone has various ‘go-to people’ they turn to in order to learn about great places. It could be finding a great restaurant or hotel when visiting a new location, discovering a new store with great products or special deals, or just being ‘in the know’ on what’s trendy or where to experience something special. Everyone wants to discover those “gems in the rough” and it’s usually our trusted friends and tastemakers we know who are the source. But remarkably, those recommendations aren’t really stored in one easy place today and accessing/requesting them via existing social networks or review sites is still very difficult. Requests for help in Facebook or Twitter can get quick replies, but those recommendations can just as quickly ‘get lost’ in the raging river that is the Facebook timeline or Twitter feed. And, users still have to search and fumble around, especially on their mobile devices, to find out the info about those places. Raved makes in infinitely easier to browse, request, store and access friend recommendations for great places on your mobile device.

How do you expect people will use social recommendations as opposed to community-based ones, such as Yelp, or straight-up business listings through Google searches?

We believe our social recommendation platform will augment other sources of information, like the great reviews on Yelp, to help consumers discover, save and share great places with their friends. Users are primarily leveraging Raved to solicit, organize and easily get recommendations from friends, but they can just as easily access other useful content and community-based reviews from our business partners to add depth to their decisions. And since users can save all of their favorite places within Raved and access all of this useful information in one app, Raved is quickly becoming the most convenient way for consumers to discover, save and share great places to eat, drink, shop, and get things done when they’re on the go.

Mobile couponing is still very much in its infancy, but Raved has a dedicated tab for it in every business listing. What are some of the roadblocks for businesses on this front?

No doubt, mobile couponing is still in its infancy. That said, we see the adoption of mobile promotion growing at a very rapid and accelerating pace. You don’t have to look much further than how quickly “traditional” coupons and deals for local establishments – newspaper inserts and ads, coupon booklets, direct mailers, yellow page offers, etc. – moved online than to project how quickly the transition to mobile will occur. Moreover, we believe the transition to mobile will happen even more quickly as this trend will simply follow the clear and rapid transition of where consumers are
spending most of their time – on their mobile devices. We also believe that integrating mobile coupon discovery and redemption into Raved’s personal directory will help accelerate this adoption. Presenting offers where users go to find their favorite businesses and the great places their friends recommend at the time when they’re looking for where to go, adds a tremendous amount of convenience and value. While users can search for coupons online or sift through offers in various emails cluttering up their inbox, it’s hard to find them when they need them - when they’re out and about and making that all important ‘driveway decision’ about where to go.

We’re already beginning to see some of this rapid adoption. In addition to the rapid growth of Facebook offers which we integrate seamlessly into Raved, we also aggregate tens of thousands of offers via partnerships with several great companies including: Local Offer Network, SignPost, Sqoot, and others. With over 4 million Raves for nearly 1.5 million unique places already in our network and growing exponentially, there’s definitely a lot more deals we need to secure in order to present relevant deals and offers for all of them. But, we’re excited about the future growth prospects and confident in our ability to deliver ever more valuable information to our users.

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Raved leans heavily on Facebook and Foursquare for functionality. What were some of the driving forces behind this decision, as opposed to building out a business listing and social network of your own?

The decision to build on top of Facebook goes back to the core of what inspired us to build Raved. Our goal from the start was to help users more easily discover great places based on their friends’ recommendations. There is no social platform better than Facebook with whom to achieve this goal.

First, Facebook has the broadest network of users and their friends. It’s where the most people connect with their friends. Period. And while many other apps are trying to create their own social networks, we think there are enough out there already and Facebook is the clear winner, at least for now. We also didn’t want to add any effort to get started or require users to find and follow their friends again to begin getting value from Raved. Second and unlike most other
services that rely on user-generated content get activity, input, reviews and recommendations, the Facebook platform is also significantly more powerful. Facebook has broken the typical ‘80/20’ rule where 20% of users (or sometimes even a lot less) contribute 80% or more of the content.

Even Foursquare - with whom we’ve also integrated and based on the data we’re seeing - tends to follow this pattern where a very small minority of users actively check in regularly, write tips and compete for badges and such for local places. With Facebook, it’s actually the inverse.

In just the past month since we launched on Apple and then Android just two weeks ago, the Raved network has grown to several thousand users and nearly three hundred and fifty thousand friends in the network. On average, the initial Raved user is bringing with them over four hundred friends from Facebook. And nearly two thirds of the users and their friends in the network have ‘raved’ at least one local business. In fact, the average is between 10-15 ‘raves’ per user. So in a very short period of time, we have provided new and easy access to over four million total Raves for nearly one and a half million unique local businesses. And, we’re doubling the growth of this network
almost every two weeks.

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How many other social networks are you looking at integrating?

As long as there is incremental value for our users, we are interested in integrating additional social networks. Twitter is one we are definitely planning to integrate. LinkedIn also offers a very robust network of professionals. We’re also evaluating Google Plus, Pinterest, Foodspotting and others.

What can we expect next from Raved?

Our product roadmap is teeming with awesome new features and ideas that we want to take from our white boards to users’ mobile devices. One idea we’re very excited about because users have been trying to use the app for this is a ‘Get Raves’ Q&A feature. This will allow ravers to ask their friends for help dynamically building Raved Lists of great places in response to questions they might ask like “where’s a great sushi bar in San Francisco?” or “what’s a great museum to take the kids for an afternoon in New York?” While friends can ask these questions on Facebook or other platforms today, getting access to these recommendations wherever you are and whenever you want, especially down the road, isn’t as easy. And having all of the relevant information about those places right at your fingertips still takes time to search for and accumulate. It’s a natural extension of what we’re already seeing our users leverage Raved for and furthers our mission to help friends discover, save and share great places together.