What's Next For The Check-In?

Fast Company Sep 13, 2011 Back to press

BY Howard LindzonToday

"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.

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