A little less than two years after being acqui-hired by Facebook, Gowalla co-founder and CTO Scott Raymond has left to join Airbnb‘s mobile product team. There, Raymond will work on a product that is growing in importance, as Airbnb seeks to facilitate connections between its users and speed up the process of creating listing and booking reservations.
Airbnb has been steadily trying to improve its mobile experience for both guests and hosts. While it has always done a good job of providing guests with ways to search, bookmark, and book reservations on its mobile apps, it’s recently added features enabling hosts to manage their listings on the go.
Earlier in the summer, it updated its mobile apps to allow hosts to create listings directly from the app. That included the ability to upload photos, set a space’s location via GPS, and have instant phone verification to ensure that hosts could be reached from the phone they were listing from.
Airbnb plans to continue investing in mobile, because communication between guests and hosts happens a lot faster over mobile than if both parties are on the company’s webpage. About 50 percent of hosts use the Airbnb mobile app today, according to Airbnb head of engineering Mike Curtis. The company has previously said that hosts on its mobile apps typically respond three times faster than those on desktop.
“We’re really concentrating on mobile right now, building out our mobile team and building out our mobile product,” Curtis said. Today, Airbnb has a team of 15 working on mobile, but the company will continue to add to the team over time. With that in mind, Curtis said it was important to bring in someone to help the growing mobile product team.
That person will be Raymond, who has experience building mobile products for travelers and adventurers. As co-founder and CTO of Gowalla, he built one of the earliest location-based mobile apps for finding and discovering interesting new venue and sharing them with friends.
“Gowalla’s mission was to get out and explore places in the world. That experience has been percolating in my mind for years,” Raymond said. Getting back to the themes that he explored at Gowalla was one of the big things that drew him to Airbnb.
While Gowalla ended up losing the so-called “check-in war,” the product evolved in an interesting way, particularly with the last release before being acquired by Facebook. Gowalla 4.0 was designed to enable users to tell stories and discover new places with social travel guides.
That’s consistent with a lot of the work that Airbnb has done recently, as it moves beyond just being a platform for finding a place to stay, and seeks out ways to help travelers, once they get to where they’re going, better enjoy their stay. A year ago, Airbnb launched its own local travel guides, giving guests on desktop deeper insight into the shops, restaurants, and overall local vibe of the neighborhoods they would be staying in in major cities.
It’s too early to say which of those elements will make it into the mobile app, but Raymond says it’s clear there’s huge opportunities to do interesting new stuff to bridge the online Airbnb experience with the mobile experience, while also blending users’ experiences online and offline. Stay tuned, as I’m sure it’ll be interesting to see what comes next.
Shameless plug: I’ll be interviewing Airbnb co-founder and CTO Nate Blecharczyk about product, mobile, and other stuff at TC Disrupt Europe in Berlin in a few weeks. If you’re around, come through! It’ll be epic.
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