New App Puts Boston at Your Fingertips
By Tiffany Lu
The app market is growing at an explosive rate and has digitized many of people’s daily tasks thanks to the advancement of smartphones.
Apple’s App Store, which sees over 300 million visitors per week, has over 1.2 billion apps and 75 billion downloads as of June 2014, according to Tech Crunch, a leading technology website.
Frank Pobutkiewicz hopes to contribute to this market. Pobutkiewicz, a 26-year-old graduate of Boston University, created Follow Along – a mobile collection of walking tours in Boston categorized by interests.
The app is a free download, but the tours cost between $5 to $20. The user has a variety of categories to select from, including food and drink, sports, history, science and innovation, and shopping.
Once a tour is purchased, the user can access it as many times as he or she would like. The app displays the length of the tour, number of stops, and map location and pictures accompanied by a description of historical significance, interesting facts and local reviews.
The app also includes interactive content such as trivia questions, videos, and an explore mode that allows users to roam the area freely.
Pobutkiewicz’s inspiration for the app came during a 2012 trip to Beijing when he noticed that even though the tour guide was relaying important information, it was difficult to become engaged.
The next year, Pobutkiewicz developed a mobile game with note cards and trivia questions to use during a tour and observed that everyone was fully immersed in what the tour guide was saying. After repeating this on another trip in 2014, Pobutkiewicz and business partner Doug Soons, who runs Revolution Capital in the Cambridge Innovation Center, started developing the idea for Follow Along.
In creating the app, one of the biggest challenges for Pobutkiewicz was finding a developer who could bring the idea into reality. There was also the risk of investing into an idea which he, even after extensively surveying tourists and individuals, could not predict the response.
“We had to decide,” said Pobutkiewicz, “was this amount of money worth the gamble of seeing if this was a feasible idea and if it wasn’t, would we be okay with losing that amount of money?”
Pobutkiewicz thinks businesses need a social impact, which is the reason Follow Along relies on the expertise of local companies and organizations for their tours, framing their content through a digital medium.
Follow Along’s target launch date is Friday, and Pobutkiewicz hopes that the public’s reaction to it will give them insight into the usability and potential for the app. If success measurables such as the number of users, sales statistics, and repeat percentages are favorable, he hopes to expand into cities such as New Orleans, Austin, Seattle, San Diego, and Baltimore.
Pobutkiewicz said that Follow Along’s main goal is to give users the opportunity to explore the culture, history, and beauty of a city without the rigidity of a planned tour but with the same immersion into popular highlights and local attractions.
“We’re going to expand as aggressively as we can, one market at a time,” says Pobutkiewicz.