"I started swearing to myself four or five years ago that I would never launch another product at SXSW," says Josh Williams, founder and CEO of Gowalla, the Austin-based check-in service. "That's never come true—my success record on that promise has just not been good."
Already gearing up to make a splash at this year's SXSW, the company today launched Gowalla 3 for Android, creating a "freshly baked" port of the popular iPhone app. But the real news at SXSW won't be this new iteration of the million-users-strong service. Rather, Gowalla's buzz-worthy announcement will revolve around a new rewards system, which could rival deals platforms of Foursquare and Facebook Places.
"Everyone talks about game-mechanics and badges, but the question for us is how we take these beautiful icons and turn them into something that has tangible value," Williams says. "That's where our Rewards platform comes in. It allows us to take rewards from local businesses and larger brands that are definitely more akin to, say, a Groupon or Living Social-type thing, rather than just a dollar off your coffee."
Gowalla will unveil the new Rewards platform in the next few weeks with help from several major partners—whom he declined to reveal. "Basically we're launching with a select group of partners, both larger brands and local businesses," says Williams.
While it's too early to say how a Groupon-like Gowalla would work, one could imagine the big discounts you've come to expect from daily coupon services integrated with Gowalla's check-ins.
"What we're launching is definitely going to be a pilot or an experiment," Williams says. "Presuming that this all goes well, we'll be looking to expand."
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