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Breaking Travel News interview: Dave Elchoness, co-founder and chief executive, Tagwhat

Breaking Travel News interview: Dave Elchoness, co-founder and chief executive, Tagwhat

Mobile tour guide Tagwhat has recently unveiled the first ever location-based publishing tool to enable mobile users to have content delivered to them at their physical location. Breaking Travel News sits down with Dave Elconess, co-founder and chief executive officer of Tagwhat to talk travel tech.

Breaking Travel News: What attracted you to the world of social media and tourism from your career and experiences in law?

Dave Elchoness: I had always been fascinated by technology and travel. As a young boy I would imagine how the world would be in the future.  And I’d enjoy stories told by my grandparents about life when they were younger, growing up in New York in the ‘20s. 

When I had the opportunity to move from law to the business side at Qwest Communications, I began to learn quite a bit about technology and its potential impact on our lives.  At about that time, what we think of as social media was born. 

I left Qwest and began to focus on how we might use the digital world to improve our real world interactions.  Five years later, Tagwhat seems to bring all these threads together – a location-based way of sharing digital in the context of our real lives.

BTN: As a relatively new start-up, what have been some of the main challenges you have had to overcome?

DE: Building a start-up is hard work.  Ideas come and go, but execution is what having a business is about.  You need to be nimble and flexible – all the time.  You also have to sell people on your vision constantly.  Sometimes this can be a challenge – not everyone sees the world in the same way.  You need to be willing to happily accept that fact.

BTN: What has been the biggest surprise for you since launching the Tagwhat in 2009?

DE: Learning that the Balloon Boy wasn’t really in the saucer. Blew my mind.

Also, that technology would evolve so rapidly.  Back then, we’d joke about being able to see the sort of highly relevant web content Tagwhat offers through eyeglasses.  Now it appears that Google is preparing to launch exactly such a piece of equipment this year or next.

BTN: You recently announced new publishing tools and mobile notifications. How will these benefit travellers?

DE: The publishing tools, which make delivering web content to real world places as easy as a few clicks, will benefit both publishers (like media companies, tourism bureaus, bloggers, and even travel agencies) and travellers.  For publishers, they will have an easy new way to leverage location-related content now that they can quickly attach it to real places.  Imagine your blogs, websites, YouTube videos, Flickr images, being part of the world’s most incredible tour guide.

Travellers can also add their content to Tagwhat via our publishing tools but perhaps more importantly with our new mobile notifications Tagwhat can remain in their pockets and still offer value.  We let travellers choose how often they would like Tagwhat to “push” an interesting story about their surroundings.  Travellers can also virtually visit any spot on Earth and add stories to their “Want to Go” Travel Log.  Once at the destination, Tagwhat will notify them as they approach these spots.  Tagwhat is sort of like a friendly tour guide tapping you on the shoulder to let you know there’s something cool nearby.

BTN: Which types of travellers could benefit most from Tagwhat? Are travellers ready for this type of technology / product?

DE: All sorts of travellers and even those who are just curious about their surroundings will love Tagwhat.  It’s like having a personal tour guide with you all the time, sharing with you the stories about the places near you that you’ll find interesting.  There’s no question that travellers are ready for a smart and helpful tour guide in their mobile devices. 

We’ve made the app incredibly easy to use so that even those who are less technologically inclined can use Tagwhat without any sort of tutorial. On the publishing side, our Tag it tool makes publishing to any spot on Earth in Tagwhat as easy as just a handful of clicks.

BTN: Who are your main competitors (if any)?

DE: We’re doing something quite unique.  There are many apps that allow for sharing via mobile at location.  But we’re delivering the existing web and apps to location.  It’s a new approach to organizing the web.

BTN: Tell us more about the app and your future plans?

DE: The app is free for iPhone and Android.  We’ll be adding support for other languages over time.  The app is extremely popular with tourists, visitors to places (e.g. people visiting a college campus for a tour), and generally anyone curious about the places around them (which seems to be just about everyone.)

BTN: What are your predictions for the social media over the next five years?

DE: Undoubtedly we’ll be using our mobiles more and we’ll be interacting with our environments more – places and objects for example will become interactive in ways we can hardly imagine.  Our TVs are about to change a lot too, into more social creatures in our homes.  My chief prediction is that there will be changes that are utterly unpredictable.  There’s always something new and incredible on the horizon that is bound to change about we interact with each other and our environments.

BTN: Can you share any trends you have noticed emerging for mobile users?

DE: People are spending more time surfing the web on mobile devices than on desktops.  This is only going to increase. What this means is an expanding opportunity for truly mobile products like Tagwhat.

BTN: How do you see Tagwhat evolving?

DE: We have so many opportunities in Tagwhat to tether content from the web to places.  Starting with the ‘content source’ like video, images, and text, we can attach all sorts of additional services in context to assist the mobile user.  All I can say is stay tuned, there’s lots more to come.