A few years ago I worked on a startup with the goal of providing local event recommendations. Unfortunately, we were never able to make it work. We focused too much on building new features, didn’t simplify our product enough, didn’t have a focused vision, and didn’t spend time understanding the market. After reading Mark Hendrickson’s Plancast’s postmortem, I started thinking about the problem again and what a successful approach would look like. As Mark pointed out, it’s difficult to incent people to consistently broadcast their plans. Most people will only plan major events in advance and even fewer will log into a website to note that they’re going to grab beers with a friend in a few hours. One thing people are starting to do is checking in to a venue. Knowing the present is a lot simpler than thinking about the future and smartphones have reinforced this behavior. Foursquare has been riding this wave and apps like GroupMe and Fast Society have also taken advantage.
Instead of trying to change user behavior, it’s easier to leverage existing behaviors but apply it to something else. Foursquare is best positioned to move into the event recommendation space. It has already started providing venue recommendations based on historical checkins and there’s value in knowing that 50 people have checked into a stadium within a few minutes of one another. By integrating with an event database, it’s possible to know what events people are attending. This information can initially be used to recommend venues that have similar events going on. Over time, this can transition into doing direct event recommendations.