Matchbook lights a fire under the local deals business

If you remember the days when you'd grab a matchbook to remember the name and location of a restaurant or bar, then the Matchbook app is for you. Launched in the summer of 2011, Matchbook enables iOS device users to bookmark and organize details of venues they like to visit, spots they wish to explore and places recommended by friends, blogs or other in-the-know sources. Users search for the name of the spot they want to bookmark or click the app's "I'm walking by it" option, adding tags and notes when appropriate--Matchbook then organizes all location data by neighborhood and on a map, guaranteeing consumers can easily find their way back to the venue in question.

With the release of Matchbook 1.6 earlier this month, the app now alerts users when a restaurant or retailer they've bookmarked is running a deal via sites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt City. It's an addition that benefits cost-conscious consumers as well as Matchbook, heralding a major step forward in the startup's business model. Another sign of progress: $250,000 in new seed funding from Quotidian Ventures and Rick Webb. FierceDeveloper spoke to Matchbook founder Jason Schwartz about the local deals integration, the evolution of social networking and the importance of solving problems, not creating them.

Jason Schwartz

   Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz on Matchbook's origins: This is my fifth startup. I've been building software for the last 10 years. Mobile appealed to me because of [Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL)] iOS platform--until recently, we didn't have a great platform for building mobile stuff.

I'm a big believer in only building software that's based on human behavior, and using software to solve inefficiencies. I spent a lot of time in bars to figure out what people think of the location space. I discovered a very prevalent behavior, especially among women: People are saving information on places they want to go to in their mobile phones. It seemed like really interesting behavior, but when I asked them if they used the list, they all said 'No. It's not organized. I can't find anything I need.' So I saw people doing a lot of work and getting nothing in return, and software can solve those kinds of problems.

Users can sort saved places by date and location.

Schwartz on the Matchbook user experience: Say I'm coming to Chicago--I might ask you 'Hey, what's your favorite restaurant?' Matchbook is a way to make note of recommended restaurants when you're nowhere near them. It also works when you happen to be walking by someplace you'd like to visit. You just click the button.

We use the foursquare API [for location data]. We looked at other options, like Google and SimpleGeo. We tried them all. None of them came even close to what foursquare has built out for developers. I recommend it to any developer building a location service.

The number one thing that's different about foursquare is the dataset. Others are taking stale and static data, where foursquare is a living thing. Users are constantly adding and updating information. That really helps. Now our users are adding new information as well.

Schwartz on Matchbook's new deals integration: When you bookmark places, you're essentially creating a list of intent. These are places you intend to go to. Now, when Groupon or LivingSocial runs a deal for a place you want to go to, we send you an alert.

[The native Groupon and LivingSocial] apps are very focused with where you are at that moment--if you're walking through a particular neighborhood, they show you what's around you. Matchbook focuses on where you want to go in the future, which is a more interesting model. And when consumers click on an ad and buy a deal, we get a cut.

Schwartz on expanding Matchbook beyond iOS: I would love to, but given the level of funding we have, it's difficult. It's always difficult to support two platforms. You spend all your time creating parity instead of creating new features. Also, Android is much more expensive to develop for than iOS. Testing for multiple different versions and phones with different features and screen sizes is a nightmare.

Users are alerted when favorited locations have deals.

Schwartz on the trend toward more intimate social experiences: From 2006 to 2011, we were in the social network era mindset, which was about software that enables you to friend everyone and share everything with everyone. But in reality, you don't friend everyone and share everything. Now we're entering a new era with more focus on your social circles and your more intimate groups of friends.

There's no friending in Matchbook. It only includes light social features. Any place you bookmark, you can share on Facebook. You can also take any place you've bookmarked and share it via text message. But communication within the app is not something we have a lot of plans for. We want to make Matchbook a more intimate experience. When you get that challenge solved, then you're getting communication that's more valuable.  

[Matchbook] is the only app we're working on. We're focusing exclusively on this platform. Looking at the future, step one is getting people to stop writing this stuff into their phone. We've created an app that's superior to that experience. The second step is deals. This is how we're going to monetize. The third step is how to crack the social circles problem.

Schwartz's advice for aspiring mobile developers: If you're going to build software, make sure you base it on true, already occurring human behavior. Creating a need and then building software to meet that need is close to impossible. Stick to problems that exist in the real world.

Developer Workshop is a series of profiles exploring the current state of the mobile marketplace from the point of view of the software developers mapping out its future. Each profile focuses on a developer with a compelling story to tell, and offers their perspective on what the industry's doing right, what it's doing wrong and how to make it better. Check out our previous workshops on ShazamInfoMediaViigoMeet Now LiveShortcoversPint Sized MobileGeodelicSpark of Blue SoftwareTarver GamesPeople Operating TechnologyBooyahBolt CreativeThwaprMonkeyland IndustriesRocket Racing League , Vlingo, Advanced Mobile Protection, PapayaMobile, Taptu, GameHouse, Avatron, aisle411, Crowdstory, Outfit7, ADP, LocaiThe PlayForgeUniversal Mind, Khush and MindJolt SGN.