With the iPhone, Geodelic Finds Dollars & Seoul

Ever since we first tried out Sherpa, a location-based services application, we became fans of Geodelic, the Santa Monica, Calif.-based company behind it. The app, which automatically learns a cell phone user’s favorite locations and lifestyle behavior and was initially launched exclusively for T-Mobile’s myTouch phone, has been downloaded some 350,000 times. Adding to that user base are the recently released versions of Geodelic for Android devices as well as the iPhone. (Click here to download from the iTunes App Store.)

In the meantime, Geodelic has just signed a deal with Korea Telecom that will see the company create a Seoul-specific application for Korean iPhone users. The move is expected to bring in revenues in the “high seven figures,” CEO Rahul Sonnad told me. Korea Telecom, an iPhone distributor in South Korea, signed a multiyear deal with Geodelic.

This revenue boost will prove to be quite significant for Geodelic, which is hoping to put some distance between itself and a growing number of competitors including Foursquare and Gowalla. Sonnad explained that the reason his company is able to build Seoul Tour is because of its publishing platform. Using it, Geodelic has worked with Universal Studios Theme Parks and Best Buy Stores to create what Sonnad calls “experiences.” It’s also worked with Greenopia, which has created an experience around “green shopping” across the U.S. The company now plans to create airport experiences, which will not only show flight information and airport maps, but will also be able to showcase location-based promotions.

“The publishing system makes us unique,” Sonnad said, “allowing major brands to create hyper-local experiences around it.” But that’s not all. The company is hoping to open up this publishing system to consumers sometime later this year. “Much as Ning made it easy to create social networks for everyone, with Geodelic you will soon be able to create your own location-based, hyper-local experiences,” he said.

It’s a clever idea. Imagine, for example, an experience that centers entirely around the best pizza joints in a particular city. Now imagine thousands of such “experiences.” Geodelic, thanks to the efforts of others, will end up with a fairly deep and accurate database of many different places around the country. I especially like the fact that it’s using location as a way to provide context to local information.

However in order for this plan to succeed, the company needs to do two things: substantially increase the number of its users and get those users to use the service more often. At present, some 100,000 folks check out Geodelic’s Android-specific application once a month and a mere 10 percent of those 100,000 check it out five times or more every month.

In my opinion, in order for one to judge the success and value of a location-based application, one needs to measure the intensity of engagement in addition to the number of downloads. The higher the engagement, the more valuable a location-based application!

Sonnad is betting that with the release of an iPhone app, as well as more city-specific versions of Sherpa, his company will get the big bump it really needs. Let’s hope so -– if not, he will soon be watching one of its competitors take the lead.

This article also appeared in BusinessWeek.com.