This leads to many interesting connections that most members might not otherwise make. "Our 'Buy' mechanism generates a connection that is much deeper than a 'Follow,' but less intrusive than a 'Friend,' which makes it easier to connect across the world while playing a fun game that, in itself, is based on social media engagement," Ohle says. "And, based on how deep members get involved, they might end up using it as a training tool, a social network, or as a way to become a virtual millionaire."
d. Stats: Web traffic grew by more than 150 percent from March to April. And, as it continues to climb, they are keeping their members highly engaged, averaging over 10 page views and 12 minutes per visit.
e. Funding sources: Privately funded by Boris Wertz, Dr. Ray Muzyka, Dr. Greg Zeschuk, and Kevin Swan.
2. Color (Color Labs Inc.)
a. Founders and date founded: Bill Nguyen and a team of engineers, 2010
b. What it does: Color is a free iPhone and Android app that creates an instant social network based on users location and proximity to others. The objective is to facilitate better relationships with neighbors and co-workers without the rigors of establishing permanent connections. Users can instantly share images, videos, and text conversations with others in proximity by capturing information as a group instead of an individual.
c. Why it's hot: Color is addressing the question: What is social networking in the post PC era?
According to founder Bill Nguyen, Color provides a mobile layer on top of the social networks users already love. Color works by using advanced technology to process location information, social network graphs, and device sensors to accurately define proximity, so users can share and interact with their community in a way that's more personal and relevant than the broadness of the Web. "We believe that relevance from proximity is the next step forward for social networking," says Nguyen.
d. Stats (page views, number of subscribers, followers, etc.): Color representatives elected not to disclose this information. The site is still very young.
e. Funding sources: Bain Capital Ventures, Sequoia Capital, and Silicon Valley Bank
a. Founders and date founded: Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai; March 2009
b. What it does: foursquare is a location-based mobile service that enables participants to share their location with friends by checking-in via a smartphone app. It facilitates real-world experiences by allowing users to bookmark information about venues they want to visit, then provides customized recommendations. Merchants and brands benefit by using the self-service tools to attract and engage customers and fans.
c. Why it's hot: "The latest version of the mobile app (3.0) has transcended the check-in to actively change the way users experience the world around them," says Erin Gleason, PR manager at foursquare. "We've done this by highlighting three things: discovery, encouragement, and loyalty."
For example, individuals use foursquare to "discover" new experiences, then make or provide recommendations to friends. "Encouragement" thrives through check-ins, which generates points that are displayed on a Leaderboard showing the top users each week. Participants compete for high scores using exploration in their own cities as a baseline. And "loyalty" is rewarded with specials and free tools to attract, generate, and maintain continued relationships and increased growth.