Ban.jo and the world of social, local and mobile

Ban.jo is now available in Italian. Last days I had the opportunity to exchange some emails with Chris Seth, EVP for Banjo about the state of his app and the world of social, local and mobile web. Here are a few questions and his answers. Enjoy.

Everyone knows that the future is social, local and mobile. What’s Your point of view about it and why we should pay attention to Ban.jo?

The future is indeed social, local and mobile. We are social animals – we talk with our friends and operate in a series of networks. We are mobile because we are continually travelling, to places near and far. And we are local because the things that are immediately around us have a direct impact on our lives. So the future is all about location as this provides perspective and relevance for everything that we do, especially when it comes to social media. Knowing where the people, places and things that are important to us are can make our lives better and more rewarding.

Why should you pay attention to Banjo? Banjo is a technology company, at the intersection of mobile search and social discovery, that has developed the most powerful and sophisticated location based technology available today.

Banjo’s technology organizes and personalizes real time geo-spatial indexing of the social graph from more than 400 million people every day. Since launch we have reached over 3 million registered users who are leveraging our unique technology to make sense of all the location data in their lives, ensuring they can always be in touch and never have to miss out on the important things in their life, whether they are around the corner or around the world.

Specifically, we are the only social discovery company addressing the THERE as well as the HERE in location based services.

Our version of the HERE in location offers a better experience for consumers becase we have connected the social graph (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Linkedin so far), thus adding relevance, accuracy and many more opportunities to connect. Banjo also manages the frequency of notifications so its users are not overwhelmed, and respects the privacy settings for all the social networks it supports.

But the THERE is really far more significant for the future of location based services because so much of what is dynamic in our lives involves some degree of travel and distance. In addition, our social needs are greater in the THERE, when we find ourselves away from the usual relationships such as our close family & friends. Activity further away from us is harder to personalize and predict but ultimately more significant for the end user.

The sheer scale of data in the THERE dwarfs the HERE, so it’s a bigger technical challenge, especially when trying to do this in real time, as everything changes all the time so pre computing relationships, events, where people are, doesn’t really work. This is a huge technical problem to solve but solving it offers a significant reward.

So addressing the THERE delivers a far more complete consumer experience that we believe will forever change the way we discover and connect with people, places and things around the world. Banjo is the only company that is doing this today.

One of the main concern for mobile users is battery life. It is very short if You are online, GPS sensor activated, wi-fi on and so on. Is Ban.jo battery friendly? Is it a real concern for You?

This is a major focus for us as a technology company and we have spent a lot of time working on this area. As a result, Banjo is a battery friendly app, and especially so compared to other social local mobile services. Unlike other services, our app does not run consistently in the background – it only needs to update when there is significant movement identified via geo-fencing technology. And we only notify you when it is a friend of yours who is near which means the impact on battery life is less significant. While the app is not being used it has a similar battery impact as a standard weather or mapping application.

Critical mass is mandatory to find Ban.jo and local social networking useful. What’s Your strategy to gain a minimun number of members and how do You get there? Are You beyond this figure in any market? Is it possibile to do it without any help with any big player but just You playing alone?

Banjo has never had the ‘zero user problem’ – the problem where you need to build a massive user base in order for the app to be useful. Because we integrate the largest social networks, we will always show results, no matter where you are or where you might go on Banjo. That said, in a year and a half Banjo has already gained critical mass in certain markets. We reached 1 million users in only 9 months (faster than Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin, for example) and have over 3 million users today. Part of the reason for our fast growth – we have users in over 190 countries worldwide – is that we have now localised into 11 languages including, of course, Italian. But more importantly we are not creating yet another social network but instead we are a location layer that operates across the existing spectrum of networks and channels that people already use.

Talk to one of my readers. He has many apps, he likes to be social on Facebook or Twitter. A few very important reasons to convince him to try Ban.jo and give it a chance.

Banjo provides the only on-the-ground view of what’s happening through the social lens of your friends and connections, whether you are around the corner or around the world:
· Friends: Banjo lets you explore the world through the eyes of your friends and common connections across the most popular social networks. Banjo also notifies you when your friends are nearby.

· Time: Banjo saves you time by integrating all your favourite social networks into one mobile platform.

· Personalized Places: Banjo takes you anywhere in the world from wherever you are, in a real-time and personalised way, surfacing content that’s relevant to you as an individual.

· Search: Banjo enables you to search by interest in a specific location eg. content about cycling in the Alps, entrepreneurs in Milan, couscous in Palermo

In short, Banjo helps bring you moments you would otherwise miss from the people and places you care about.

I’m adding below just one example of this is in action:

Earlier this year during the Olympics one of our colleagues in San Francisco who is a passionate swimmer was following Michael Phelps but was frustrated by the live transmission of the events in the US happening with such a delay. So he used Banjo to pick the location where the swimming was actually taking place and was able to view the event through the social lens provided by people actually watching it live.
Banjo’s unique technology validates that the friend or common connection posting about the event is actually posting from the location, and not second hand. Banjo’s personalized real time feed delivers an on-the-ground view of the most popular events and places around the world by surfacing content that’s relevant to you.

Only following hashtags, for example, means that you can miss out on what is happening in a specific place because not everyone uses them, or they spell them wrongly or they use different hashtags e.g #Olympics2012, #London2012, #Olympics12, #LDN2012. With Banjo you can visit the concert, sports game, city or country and see everything that is happening from that location through the eyes of your friends and common connections.

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