Already established as the leading mobile geo-social network in Germany, the service has gained over 350,000 users in Europe since its launch in April 2008. France is the second largest market behind the German-speaking countries. Now it has its eye on the US, where the popularity of the iPhone is seen as key to its potential success there.
Roman Hänsler, founder and head of PR for aka-aki, told GPS Business News it was no secret that the Apple handset has played a big role in the start-up's success so far. This, coupled with the relative maturity of social networking in North America, makes the US an obvious target for the international roll-out of aka-aki. “The US is top of our list and will follow very soon,” he said.
Hänsler said the idea behind aka-aki is to take social networking out to the streets by adding location to the mix. What began as a university project in 2006 has been transformed by its eight founders into the aka-aki mobile app, which was named Best Mobile Social Network of the year in May at the web industry's “Oscars” - the annual Webby Awards. It has all the classic social networking functions - instant messaging, status updates, friend feeds, buddy lists etc - but he said the app's ability to display the profiles of nearby fellow users is what makes it special.
“It's about getting to know people around you. It's the opposite concept to everyone sitting alone in front of a PC, spread around the world,” he said. “The main thing is to see the profiles of people around. It should open entry points to conversations.” Essentially, aka-aki users build up a profile using “stickers” that highlight interests and preferences. Users create stickers by uploading a picture and giving it a name. These are then stuck to their profile. “People are creating stickers like crazy,” said Hänsler.
On average members have around 100 stickers per profile. When two members “meet”, their phones show their mutual friends and interests. A “stick-o-meter” calculates the amount of stickers you have in common with another member.