BEIJING –Adam Guli scooted over to Nokia’s big Lumia launch in Beijing last week on a black Vespa. The 35 year old U.S. born entrepreneur is part of the new wave of app developers in China. Like so many great ideas, his began in Starbucks with a beautiful woman:
“I was having a meeting over a latte, and I looked over and saw an attractive woman. I thought it would be great to have an app that could use your location to help you meet people, without seeming creepy.”
Since that moment of inspiration several years ago “location based apps have become a hot industry,” but Guli believes his product ‘Let’s Powwow’ offers something quite different to Chinese clones of other services like Foursquare:
“We’re not a clone, and we believe that it is developing our own back-end content management system that has made us attractive to companies like Nokia.”
Guli is working with Nokia to develop Let’s Powwow as recommended software for the Lumia in China. He then hopes to adapt it more widely across South East Asia.
Let’s Powwow already has a directory of more than a million restaurants clubs and locations, supplying the kind of localised service mobile users expect in China. But it’s how this directory is compiled that Guli believes really sets Let’s Powwow apart:
“Other location based apps bring in users from a front page, but then bridge off other maps services and directories. The problem in China is that much of that is controlled by the government, and it’s hard to get accurate information,” Guli says.
“At Let’s Powwow we’ve created our own directory, which venues can control, to make sure that information is accurate. And we’ve developed a back-end platform so that third party apps can tap into our content, and use it.”
Working in China brings unique challenges and opportunities, Guli admits. He moved to Beijing in 2005, and for five years had a global sales and consulting role working with large technology multi-nationals, before setting up Let’s Powwow and expanding the company with an eight-strong team.
“What makes China special is that when people see an opportunity, they jump on it. They quickly adapt and make something a Chinese product.”
Operating without many of the longstanding relationships that many Chinese companies have, puts Let’s Powwow at something of a disadvantage, Guli admits – but he believes the “diversity, dynamism and difference” is what made Nokia see the potential in his product.
The only clone in Guli’s life is his beloved black scooter. It turns out his Vespa is not quite a Vespa after all, but a very good Chinese imitation.