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(Yonhap Interview) New social networking service connects people in the same place
By Lee Youkyung
SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) -- The Internet is often seen as the cheapest and easiest tool for far-flung people to stay in touch, but a new online social networking service believes in the benefit of small talk among smartphone users in a narrowly defined space.

   The goal of "Juspot," unlike other social networking services that let people scattered around the globe directly communicate to each other, is to connect people already in the same spot, founder of Ablar Company Chester Roh said.

   The idea of relying on a smartphone application to approach a person walking down the street a few feet away from you may seem counterintuitive.

   But Juspot will eventually replace online communities like Facebook Group and provide an answer for delivering targeted online advertisements, according to the Ablar Company chief executive who was formerly a manager at Google Inc.

   "I was walking down the streets of Garosugil and it dawned on me that people here are from a similar demographic, have a similar income level and culture," Roh said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency. "They are probably connected to each other by two or three degrees of separation, but they don't know."

   Located in southern Seoul, Garosugil is a bustling neighborhood that attracts trendy young upper middle class Koreans. It is also where the one-year-old startup's office is nestled.

  
Chester Roh, founder and chief executive of Ablar Company. (Yonhap)


Posting on Juspot is strictly limited to users who enter the Juspot-designated neighborhoods in Seoul, usually the densely populated areas near college campuses or subway transfer hubs.

   At first glance, Juspot appears to be a mixture of Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare, three mobile social networking services created by U.S. companies. When users are logged into a Juspot zone, they can write short messages or snap pictures with their smartphone camera and share them online.

   People in proximate locations can browse the stream of messages and pictures, which are grouped by location.

   Why would users want to rely on an online tool if they are already in the same location? And why would people even want to talk to the stranger eating across the table or standing at the same cocktail party?

   Part of what Juspot service does is to create an online track of people who come together in a space either by prearrangement or by coincidence.

   "We call it a tacit social networking service," Roh said.

   After a dinner party or a cooking class is over, people set up an online club or Facebook Group to share photos from the night or to stay connected. But these steps of setting up a page for a new group, finding and adding users will be seen outdated as location-based services offer a more intuitive solution, Roh argued.
Ablar is also eyeing business potential in these streams of conversations created by people in the same location, as they can turn into a marketing tool for local merchants and advertisers.

   "There has been no medium for local merchants to reach out to people in the same restaurant and to deliver targeted ads," he said.

   The startup, which is the fourth company founded by Roh, plans to launch the Juspot service in New York City next spring, mounting competition in the crowded social networking market in the United States.
To launch the U.S. service, Ablar has been moving nimbly, introducing updates and fixes every two weeks since it opened a beta service for Juspot one month ago for Korean smartphone users.

   Although Juspot will be the first global service for Roh, the 35-year-old serial entrepreneur is well-known in the Internet industry in South Korea.

   The former hacker and car racer started a security firm as a college junior, successfully leading its initial public offering during the dotcom boom in 2002. Roh's third venture firm, Tatter and Company, was acquired by Google in 2008.

   He remains an advisor to and investor in the startups of other young Korean entrepreneurs, including Ticket Monster Inc., a leading Korean online daily coupon provider recently sold to U.S.-based LivingSocial.

  
A screen shot of the Juspot social networking service, slated to launch in New York City in 2012. (Yonhap)


ylee@yna.co.kr
(END)
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