Curating Lists of Local Places With Urbantag

A new version of San Francisco-based Urbantag launches today to help people curate lists of real-world places they like in cities around the world, and to allow users to find places recommended by friends and other members. Instead of using web bookmarking tools, sending emails about favorite places to friends, or dropping a pin on a Google map to remember a great restaurant, Urbantag provides a place to bookmark and share lists of places.

Founder Andrew Hoag believes people aren’t always interested in sharing where they are, but they’re happy to share where they go and where they’ve been. “There’s a vacuum in the location-based services market for people that want to share where they go,” he said in an interview. “It’s either you have to tell people where you are, or you don’t tell anyone at all, and we feel like that’s an opportunity.”

Similar to how Pinterest lets users curate items they like and Spotify lets users curate their preferred music, Urbantag encourages people to curate locations. Users can easily save a location, add notes and photos to it, rate it by giving it a thumbs up or thumbs down, and add a place to their wish list. Then users can create maps, which are lists of locations around a certain topic, like great restaurants or places to take the kids. Maps can be shared via email, or on Facebook and Twitter. And like Pinterest and Spotify, Urbantag also emphasizes discovery – the service is integrated with Foursquare and Facebook, and pulls users’ friends in from those networks. It also runs a Tastemakers program to get local influencers curating lists of places, and has over 100 people in the program for the launch sharing lists like “my favorite places to eat in NYC.”

Urbantag started off as just an iPhone app, but is now available through both iOS and web apps (an Android app is coming soon). Hoag said since the iOS app launched in December the company has signed up thousands of users, with over 25,000 places stored. Hoag said the web version of Urbantag is more targeted at publishing and researching, while the mobile version is aimed at discovery and consumption. “All of their audience and readers can take that content with them in their pocket,” he said about how users are following Tastemakers and their collections.

While tools like Yelp aim to provide info on local places, Hoag believes it’s more powerful to allow people to follow places frequented by people with similar tastes. Other apps like Pinwheel, co-founded by Flickr’s Caterina Fake, are tackling the location-based notes space, aiming to help people attach data to a location, and allowing other users to discover it. “I think it’s flattering that someone with Caterina’s pedigree is looking at the market in the same way as we are,” Hoag said about the competition, but said Urbantag focuses more on the person rather than the map. “It’s about creating a publishing platform for curators around location, and I think that’s different than the angle Caterina’s taking which is a geo-caching, annotated world.”

The app is free, and Hoag is monetizing by partnering with brands in the form of advertising and sponsorships, and the site is launching with brand partners including Liquor.com and Red Tricycle. Hoag also sees opportunities for bookings and affiliate revenues as they grow. The company, which is located in the Founders Den coworking space in San Francisco, is in the process of closing a round of seed funding with participation from investors including BranchOut founder Rick Marini.

Curation is one of the biggest trends right now, with users curating lists of what they wear (Polyvore), listen to (Spotify) and more. If Urbantag can tap into the curation culture while also proving to users that it’s a better solution than existing location-based services like Foursquare and Yelp, they could build a thriving community. But with crowdsourced ratings apps like Oink experiencing trouble getting users on board, the key issue for the company could be adoption.

Erin Bury

Erin Bury

Erin has covered startups and technology for over three years in publications including Sprouter Weekly, The Globe and Mail, Business Insider, Mashable, and VentureBeat. She also writes a regular startup column for the Financial Post, and is a technology expert on CTV News Channel. Before BetaKit Erin worked as Director of Content & Communications at Sprouter from its launch in 2009 until its acquisition by Postmedia Network Inc. She was recently named one of Marketing Magazine's 30 Under 30 in 2012.

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