American Innovation

Social app Findery lets users share notes from all over the world

  • A Findery "note" from Mexico.

    A Findery "note" from Mexico.  (Findery)

  • Findery CEO and Founder Caterina Fake

    Findery CEO and Founder Caterina Fake  (©2006 Richard Morgenstein)

  • A Findery "note" from Providence, R.I.

    A Findery "note" from Providence, R.I.  (Findery)

San Francisco-based stay-at-home mom Cam Bowman is a big fan of Disneyland. She frequently visits the home of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Walt Disney’s other animated characters with her husband and two daughters, and has become so knowledgeable about the amusement park that she even wrote a book called 101 Disneyland Tips. For someone like Bowman who has amassed countless factoids about the popular California attraction, social discovery app Findery has given her a way to not only share her expertise but connect with countless others who are posting about the locations that interest them.

Bowman has been using Findery – something of an interactive Atlas in which users from all over the globe post geo-tagged notes about the places they visit and stumble upon – since August. In that short time frame Bowman has left 42 “notes” to the app’s virtual map. They range from the personal to the factual, with some notes featuring pictures from an outing with her two girls to tips about “hidden treasures” at Disneyland like Pixie Hollow, which she considers to be an easy-to-overlook spot at the park.

“Using Findery in the park, I can find little tips from people who may know even more than I do, and are sharing those ideas on Findery,” Bowman told FoxNews.com. “I not only learn something new about our favorite spot, but I can share these kinds of things with my readers.”

Bowman’s use of the app to connect not only with her favorite spots, but also with other people who are offering their own perspectives on the world is exactly what the app’s founder and CEO Caterina Fake intended when she first came up with the idea for a social network that could offer a window to every corner of the world. Findery first launched two years ago in a private beta web version when it was known as Pinwheel. The idea was fairly simple – in an era where people turn to resources like Yelp to offer recommendations and reviews, there wasn’t necessarily a digital platform for people to shed light on interesting facts about a place beyond where the best restaurants are.

Fake told FoxNews.com that the ultimate goal of Findery – which launched its iOS and Android apps in March and September, respectively – was to “become a source of knowledge,” a “ubiquitous thing like Wikipedia.”

Fake said that similar to how a site like Wikipedia provides easy access to everything from biographical information on presidents to queries like “who is that obscure writer that was a friend of Borges?” Findery can offer a perspective on a place that one wouldn’t get from a standard tour guide. Fake has personally benefitted from her own app, having walked around her San Francisco neighborhood, which is steeped in history with old Victorian homes, and discovered strange facts about the place she called home for six years before Findery’s launch.

“I learned so much about my neighborhood. You take a few steps and find a note that Janis Joplin, when she was 19 years old, saw Big Momma Thornton singing this blues song, or that Courtney Love lived down the street while dating Kurt Cobain, or a group of Satanists lived in this scary looking mansion at the end of the block,” she said. “There’s all of this interesting stuff from all over the place, you know it’s there, but you somehow don’t always have access to it. Now you do.”

Fake is certainly no stranger to the startup world. In addition to Findery, she is the co-founder of Hunch, a search and discovery engine, as well as Internet photo-sharing giant Flickr. Fake’s previous experiences as a web entrepreneur provide a direct through-line to the kind of user-generated discovery experience that Findery promises.

“My background is in participatory media, social media and I’m always interested in creating systems where people can contribute,” Fake said.

The joy of discovering both new places and perspectives on familiar locales is what really appeals to Findery’s millions of users who hail from all 195 officially designated countries in the globe.

For Sydney, Australia-based IT project manager Kate Andrews, Findery has become part of her very active social media routine. Andrews first found Fake’s site in 2012 through someone else’s Twitter feed. Since then, the self-described “trivia fan” has mainly been posting interesting notes about her home city, like one about Sydney residents placing post-it notes in solidarity with Hong Kong protesters at the side of the city’s Hong Kong House. When she’s just channel surfing at home, sometimes she sees something that stands out to her, and will leave notes about film and TV locations.

Beyond homegrown curiosities, Andrews has found the app particularly useful when traveling.

“We discovered some great things on our U.S. and Japan trips thanks to notes left by people on Findery,” she wrote in an email to FoxNews.com. “I’m currently planning a trip to Hong Kong and Malaysia early next year, and have already bookmarked some notes on Findery to visit while we’re there.”

Bowman, a seasoned traveler and former flight attendant, shares many of Andrews’s views on the app, but she did add that she wished it allowed for “easier integration with other social media platforms.”

“I’d love to be able to use it like Instagram where I can easily cross-post my photos or tweet a link to a note without copying and pasting a URL multiple times to do so,” Bowman added.

For Fake, working on a startup is all about consistent tweaks and revisions. Now that Findery has a presence on iOS and Android devices, as well as mobile and computer websites, she said that there is always room for improvement.

“(Internet entrepreneur) Reid Hoffman says if you launched and are not slightly embarrassed, then you’ve launched too late,” Fake said. “Findery is out there and now is when the work begins.”

Does part of that work involve seeing Findery get acquired by a major media or tech corporation like Hunch and Flicker when they eventually fell under the massive corporate umbrellas of eBay and Yahoo, respectively? Fake said it is always unhealthy for an entrepreneur to envision that kind of corporate change so early in a company’s existence.

“I think it’s foolish to start your company as an entrepreneur and be thinking that you will be acquired,” Fake said. “The goal is to build an independent business. You should never go out of the gate with being acquired as your plan, because you lose all of your integrity as a business then. You can’t depend on other businesses as a crutch, you have to be your own thing.”

Part of Findery’s “thing” is offering a different kind of human connection beyond what Facebook or Twitter can offer.

“Technology can be really dehumanizing and take you out of your environment,” Fake said. “But we want to bring you back into your environment.”