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Loopt to compete with Facebook’s LBS

US: “Loopt will offer unique services on top of what Facebook is offering. It would be suicidal for anyone in this space not to integrate with Facebook, and I expect them all to do it. Then the question becomes which of us can build the most differentiated user value experience on top of this very basic data layer,” said Sam Altman, Loopt’s 25-year-old co-founder and chief executive in an interview with Bloomberg.

Altman also talked about Facebook Places, Apple’s iPad and the challenges of persuading small businesses to advertise.

Location-based services are a USD 1.9 billion business, projected to hit USD 3.8 billion by 2012, according to research firm Gartner. Since its launching in 2005, Loopt, a pioneer in making software for people to find each other on a map displayed on their mobile phones, competed mostly with other startups, including Foursquare Labs and Gowalla. Now the 45-employee Mountain View (California) company faces a behemoth task of competing with halfa billion users of Facebook. Facebook launched its own location-based service on August 18, 2010.

Altman shared his view that Facebook is going to be the dominant platform and that Google’s expertise is not really in social networking. Commenting on tablet-style computers, such as the Apple iPad, playing a big role in presenting location services, Altman said, “I think tablet computers are a huge trend, and they’re going to be really important in the industry. But location-based services are interesting when you’re out on the go and you have your phone with you. You can’t put a tablet in your pocket, and most people don’t carry a tablet with them all day everywhere they go. So, I believe the primary mode of interaction is going to remain via a mobile device.”

According to Altman, challenges in getting local businesses to advertise on Loopt, is to just reach them. “How do I sign up mom-and-pop businesses that may not even have a computer, much less an iPhone? How do I reach them; how do I convince them that they should do this?The second is to understand that this person who has e-mailed me and wants to advertise does in fact own the business at this address. How do I know the person who contacted me and wants to offer 25 per cent off at this restaurant really owns this restaurant and is not his competitor trying to cause trouble. We’re still working on a strategy, but we’re not going to hire hundreds of salespeople. It’s going to be a more automated process,” Altman said.

Source: BusinessWeek