What's Next For The Check-In?

"You've got people saying, 'I'm here,' whatever 'here' means. 'Here' may mean I'm at a restaurant or a ball game," says James D. Robinson, Managing Partner of RRE Ventures, "but it also may mean I'm present watching a TV show, play, or a movie."

The check-in is a buzz word, but I do not check in. We've all got those friends, you know, the ones who fill up your social stream with check-ins all day long. Save for coordinating logistics, I personally feel like publishing your whereabouts is all just a bunch of noise. However, I am fascinated by where this is all headed.

While Foursquare appears to be growing a formidable network on top of the location-based check-in, a lot of companies are innovating around the fringes of the check-in concept. Jon Callaghan of True Ventures likes his portfolio company Pose, which lets users check in to the outfit they're wearing. I'm keeping a close eye on startups like GetGlue and Miso, both of which allow users to check in to television shows and movies and interact with others watching the same program.

I'm bullish about a company I've invested in called Life 360, which uses location-enabled smartphones and the check-in to provide a monitor of your family's activities. When my kids leave the house with their phone, I can track their general location, and when they arrive at a friend's house they're able to check in—something they're incentivized to do in order to avoid the embarrassment of getting a call from me or their mom making sure they got to where they were supposed to be going.

"There are cases where the automatic check-in works, such as the running monitors like RunKeeper," says Jeff Clavier, Managing Partner of SoftTechVC. While having location-aware devices on us at all times can facilitate dramatic efficiencies like having your run tracked and mapped online, it opens the door to a privacy debate that is likely to carry on for years to come. Today your mobile phone can track your location at all times. The table is set for an era of the automatic check-in, but perhaps at the cost of our personal privacy.

Sure, I am always physically checking in at hotels and flights, but I'd only like that to be public knowledge when I feel like announcing it. I therefore assume others feel the same. There is no perfect solution, but that is the thrill and opportunity of creating a business in 2011. We would NEVER trust the carriers to market or sell us this service because in general we don't trust them. Too bad for them and great for the startup scene and venture capitalists.

Featured in this video:

  • James D. Robinson IV, Cofounder & Managing Partner, RRE Ventures
  • Eghosa Omoigui, Founder & Managing Partner, EchoVC
  • Jeff Clavier, Founder & Managing Partner, SoftTechVC
  • Jon Callaghan, Founder & Managing Partner, True Ventures
  • Jeremy Stoppelman, Cofounder & CEO, Yelp
  • Scott Heiferman, Cofounder & CEO, Meetup

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  • Ed Loessi

    Howard, good post and video snippets. 

    It's interesting that the check-in started as the ability for the person to let their friends know that they were somewhere and once that gained some momentum I think it became where we are now and that is letting the retailer, restaurateur or service provider know "hey I am here, what kinda deal do you have for me".  Even today there are still many businesses that have people checking in to them yet they have no engagement strategy or offers for them.  I think that until the business really start engaging the people who are checking in we won't be able to move to that next level or evolution of the check-in.

    In our business Offeredlocal.com we are really focused on making it easy for a business to create, deliver and manage offers and specials that do in fact engage their customers, hopefully we will grease the wheels so that we can make that jump to wherever it all goes next.

    Ed Loessi
    Co-founder OfferedLocal

  • Mara Lewis

    Great article, Howard. There's definitely a bit of noise in this market right now...but the concept of checking in (i.e. sharing where you are and what you are doing, in real time) stands to have a game changing impact on how we discover new websites and online locations. Our startup, stopped.at, is a platform and bookmark button that allows users to check in anywhere they go on the web, share their real-time virtual location with friends, and unlock check in deals from participating online stores. In essence, it's Foursquare for the Web -- on social steroids. Keep an eye on us, Howard... my team and I plan to disrupt location-based sharing as we know it ;-) Mara Lewis // CEO + Co-Founder