Trover is a mobile local discovery app (iOS & Android) that is built around geotagged images. It was founded by Karas, Andrew Coldham, and Expedia (and Zillow) founder Rich Barton; and it’s backed by General Catalyst, Ignition, and Benchmark Capital.
The app is built around “spatial browsing” and puts images at the center.
Co-founder and CEO Jason Karas contends this is a differentiated experience when compared to listings or map-based local search. Images are automatically geotagged when uploaded, then ranked by proximity to anyone that opens the app.
We’ve seen similar, but the idea here is to document local experiences and to view those of others. This can happen in a serendipitous manner, or in more of a keyword search mode. For the latter, images are not only geotagged, but meta tagged for subject matter, category or context.
There are also social elements, explains Karas, in that you can sign up through Facebook Connect and filter nearby images by those taken by friends. There’s also lots of additional social integration we could see soon, such as Foursquare, Tumblr, and other places to instantly publish pics.
But though social signals are important, location will remain the biggest factor for ranking content. Trover has decided to tag content around lat/long readings, instead of by merchant listings (the opposite of Foursquare, Yelp, etc.). This opens up the use case considerably, Karas said.
“It’s not the Starbucks we’re going for, but the alley behind the Starbucks where you find that undiscovered tea shop,” he said. “Lat/Long is primary, and we’ve invested a lot in our geo interface. We’re on our fourth revision.”
It may sound reminiscent of photo sharing apps such as Instagram, but Karas emphasizes those are more for artistic expression. There are also parallels to Oink in the “atomization” of content (moving beyond listings to index specific items), but that’s more of a reference tool Karas asserts.
But Trover could meanwhile move towards reference, as it announced a new “list” feature this week. This could bring the entertainment and discovery aspects one step further in letting you save items. It could also lead to push alerts when near saved items or locales, a la Foursquare Radar.
And just as Foursquare made its big splash at South by Southwest in 2009, Karas hopes to put Trover on the map as a tool for conference goers to find and document adventures around Austin’s signature local flavor (“keep Austin weird!”). This will include sponsored walking tours.
Longer term, as the company continues to build these functions and monitor their usage, it will be in a better position to deliver relevant content (like Foursquare and its 1 billion check-ins). According to Karas, this could be the basis for how it develops a revenue model.
“As we grow, so does our ability to serve awesome content,” he says. “Some of that could be sponsored content; If you’re a wine lover, it’s a natural extension to hear about nearby events or venues that feature wine.”
That’s a “ways away,” he said. As we saw with Foursquare and countless other companies, it first has to build up the product, usage and its social graph – something it’s done at an impressive clip in its first 6 months.
“We have 130,000 users,” he said. “But we’ll probably need 10x that.”