GyPSii, which bills itself as a “mobile digital lifestyle application” centered around geo-tagged content today launches an app for Android phones [get it here]. While there are plenty of other companies doing similar things, Amsterdam-based GyPSii is bit like a supermodel prior to her discovery by the talent spotter: the bone structure is there but not the surface gloss (witness the assault on the eye that is the corporate web site – apparently due to be upgraded). But like any supermodel worth her salt, GyPSii has the potential to generate solid revenue from multiple sources.
What does it do? GyPSii allows you to find places close to you, create places and add content to them, find friends who are closeby and share information with social networks like FaceBook. Currently the content is mainly user-generated but curated 3rd party data is being added. There isn’t a lot of content yet in Europe since the majority of users are Chinese. The Android application supports photo and text content only but applications for other phones also covers audio and video.
So far so FourSquare… but the ultimate ambition of GyPSii is to develop an index of place content which is analagous to Google’s index of web sites or FaceBook’s social graph. To this end the company has developed an algorithm called PlaceRank. As the amount of geotagged information explodes, filtering will become crucial especially given the constraints of the mobile device screen. PlaceRank combines location, demographic and social graph information to define the relevance of place information to a particular user. Machine learning is employed so that the user profile continually evolves based on behaviour. Large scale analysis can be performed faster and with fewer machines than other techniques and data is processed as it becomes available rather than periodically, allowing the index to be continuously updated in real time. PlaceRank is curently cutting its teeth in deployments with two Chinese mobile operators (Unicom and China Mobile).
GyPSii is pursuing quite a different business strategy from other apps which tie location to user content like Brightkite or Mobypicture. Rather than acquiring users mainly via the app stores, the founders went straight for the handset manufacturers and mobile operators. As a result the application will now be preloaded on all LG and Samsung phones globally and well as on a new Garmin device. Since many users don’t really care which application they are using as long as it has the basic features required, pre-installs seem like a smart move. A wide range of phones are targeted, not just top end smart phones like iPhone and Android. The next phase will involve 3rd parties using the API to access some or all of Gypsii’s functionality, e.g. the Garmin device is using the friend-finding functionality.
Income comes from advertising via revenue sharing deals with the manufacturers and mobile operators as well as licensing the API. PlaceRank will be used to “micro-target” advertising. Coupons offered by businesses near the current location are proving popular in the Chinese market and click-through rates are high.
So what are the Chinese up to?
GyPSii’s biggest user base is in China where it tracks the activities of the young Chinese middle class, a large percentage of whom create as well as consuming content via Gypsii. 90% of users don’t have full Internet access – only WAP. The Chinese take photos of food a lot and have an insatiable interest in the outside world. Adding a place in Amsterdam can generate reams of comments in Chinese. A few local content specialities are staged kidnappings at weddings, photos of work desks (important in a culture where people have little private space) and car stunts.
GyPSii faces plenty of competition in the location-based service space but its trump cards are PlaceRank and a canny business strategy. As with our supermodel, you can always add gloss but you can’t fake bone structure.