The field of radius-based hyperlocal services is getting more and more crowded. I won’t venture to list all the players for fear of leaving some out — “pop,” there’s another one.
A few, however, are drawing particular attention in the race to gain scale and nomadic-market penetration. They deliver on the promise that when a user wants something physical, someone will be nearby to supply it.
Recently we looked at Zaarly, a service that rocketed from concept to financing to public release (in that unusual order, with support from actor Ashton Kutcher). The company continues to hum on, expanding its location-based, real-time commerce platform to cities across the country.
On a similar timeline — but behind in the media-magnet, celeb-funding category — is AirRun, a service with “seekers” and “runners.” If you’re a “seeker,” you’re logging in to try and get a McDonald’s Big Mac delivered to your couch. It you’re a “runner,” you’re the one bidding to deliver the meal.
We caught up with the Rob Matthews, CEO of AirRun to find out if it’s all about lazy vs. proactive, or if there’s more to the trend (“lazy like a fox” perhaps?):
How do you distinguish your service from Zaarly, or any of the other services that connect people around tasks?
AirRun is the only global service of its kind. It’s also the most social; the users you connect with have names, photos, and user reviews. We think this is extremely important in the world of hyperlocal commerce. But we don’t require users to share sensitive information, like their phone number.
What was the impetus for the app?
When I wanted to order food from a local restaurant that didn’t deliver, I came up with the idea of developing a community of users that help each other get things done.
The concept, in its earliest of stages, was an attempt at an original approach. I don’t think you can call something as old as food delivery a spark for innovation. I basically just took my simple wish (to easily link multiple places that deliver without going through the painstaking process of creating partnerships) and developed an app around it.
A successful hyperlocal business is one that utilizes technology to provide valuable trends and information to people within varying niche communities.
Did the vision change as you got into development?
Our vision hasn’t necessarily changed. I’d say it is constantly being expanded upon. My current vision is that, if tackled correctly, this tool has the potential to be an asset for anyone. This stance was realized before development and hasn’t changed. However, development is a process, and we have a lot of ideas about how certain features will be implemented in the future. Through constantly developing and, more importantly, listening to our users, we are better able to bring innovation assumptions we’ve made to life in order to effectively test their usability and weed out flaws in design/functionality.
What were some of the key challenges in creating the app?
Our biggest challenge simply lies within our ability to pump out updates and innovations as quickly as possible. Unlike our competitors, we do not have any outside funding, which has forced us to really prioritize in terms of what we view most significant in the short term with regards to our product’s evolution. But we’re very excited about our growing pool of users, and we’re confident that we’ll continue to grow quickly.
How many registered users do you have?
AirRun currently has over 4,000 registered users. Most of our traffic is in the United States, but we’ve seen key pockets of activity in Canada, Great Britain, Australia and several other countries.
Do you have any partnerships in the works?
Not right now. The users are our first priority, but we’re weighing options for future strategic partnerships
What is your plan for revenue?
We have a revenue plan, but it is not in place yet. AirRun is and will remain entirely free to download, but we are looking into the best payment structure to grow the company. We won’t be asking runners to forfeit any of their earnings, though; they’re out there to make money. Our aim is to simply provide benefits to users that far outweigh any sort of fee associated with using AirRun.
So how do you see the hyperlocal business today?
To me, a successful hyperlocal business is one that utilizes technology to provide valuable trends and information to people within varying niche communities. AirRun’s location-based technology is one feature that gives users the opportunity to analyze what is going within their current community. Our goals definitely cater toward further hyperlocal integration, which will only produce more helpful links between members of our specific communities. We’ve seen hyperlocal apps, and we’ve seen social ones. The next generation of usability will require both.
Disclosure: I am involved in advising a startup called Urgnt.ly which is in a similar space.