Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

New Banjo Social Discovery App Uses Other People’s Check-ins

A new start-up called Banjo is today launching a local discovery app that aggregates location-based information from various social Web services.

Banjo and similar companies like are building on top of the small but growing treasure trove of location info from sources like Foursquare, which make user check-ins available to developers through APIs.

Banjo users can see updates from their friends and other people nearby on social networks like Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook Places. Banjo itself is not a check-in service, but rather a layer on top of these other social networks.

Banjo users don’t have to be in the near vicinity of other users to see their updates, and they don’t necessarily have to be their friends. They can see the locations of the nearest 16 people to them at any one time.

If you’re in the middle of nowhere, the list of 16 people might include someone miles away. Banjo CEO Damien Patton says this “elastic radius” is a key feature of his service, because Banjo won’t have the loneliness problem of other location aggregators like Color.

And Banjo users can key in any random place to find out what’s going on there. So if you’re going to Paris next week, you could see what people there are doing and saying now, while you’re planning your trip.

It will be interesting to see how users of location-based services react to services like Banjo. Even though their updates may be semipublic by design, users don’t necessarily realize who can see where they are, and how that data can be transformed when it’s aggregated and mapped. We discussed that issue in a video interview with Patton that’s embedded above.

Banjo, which will be available for both iPhone and Android at launch, is backed by BlueRun Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners. Patton, a former Nascar mechanic and manufacturing entrepreneur, attracted the attention of VCs last summer when he won a Google-sponsored hackathon with an HTML5 location-based graffiti app called SweetGeo.

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus