I caught up with the co-founders of WillowTree Apps, an independent developer out of Charlottesville, VA. They were at Macworld to show off Likes, an app that scans your Facebook friend graph and aggregates all of your friends–and friends of friends–likes by category and location.
WillowTree has 30 employees, mostly developers, and are one of the largest mobile technology businesses in Virginia.
How does Likes work? If you are in Chicago and you are looking for the top bar “liked” by your friends, you will get served up options in order of the number of likes. Very simple, very cool.
They have received about 1,000 downloads within two days since their launch. These are guys to keep an eye on. Other apps they’ve built have been part of the iPad 2 launch; won Webbys, and have otherwise received general acclaim.
I met with Tobias Dengel, their CEO, and Michael Prichard, their Founder and CTO. When asked about what made them get into mobile, Michael said that it was an obvious choice.
“As soon as I heard about the iPhone SDK, I wanted to get into app development immediately. I called Tobias and told him to drop everything and start the business with me. We haven’t looked back since,” Prichard said.
When asked about Likes, Prichard said: “It’s such a simple, but powerful, concept. Let’s see if we can mine the data of our friends’–and friends of friends–likes to help us make decisions about what we will like…”
Likes can be viewed by Places or Types.
A quick word of caution… After testing this, I found a big difference in my friends’ likes and my friends-of-friends’ likes. Basically, friends-of-friends’ likes can be heavily skewed by super networkers. For example, my top 5 bars in both the Bay Area and Chicago were all the result of one friend’s preferences. When I just focused on my friends’ likes, top bars included Zeki’s (Bay Area, 3 different friends liked it) and Bangers & Lace (Chicago, 3 different friends). Check out the images for some general hilarity, if you know any of these Bay Area spots.
Likes has real promise. Harnessing the power of our friends’ preferences is a powerful market. I also see similar opportunities in aggregating activity feeds, but that’s another startup.
Likes is a free app, and is available in the Android Market, the iTunes App Store, and as a Facebook app. Visit their launch page to find the appropriate link.