Gowalla, the geo-social app, will soon be no more. The founders will be joining Facebook and shutting down the product a couple months after trying to reposition the app as a social travel guide. It was clear long ago that its rival Foursquare won the check-in wars, passing one billion check-ins recently and more than 10 million users. But why did it turn out this way?
Both Foursquare and Gowalla launched at the 2009 SXSW conference, and many people thought Gowalla was actually better designed. At least it looked better, with more whimsical badges, for instance. But pretty doesn’t always win. “Startups and businesses are like making wine,” says Gowalla investor (and vinophile) Gary Vaynerchuk, “it is a blend. It is not about one element. Design is one element.”
Another Gowalla investor explains the difference in one word: “Austin.” Gowalla was headquartered in Austin and Foursquare is based…