Masterclassing Connect

Hungry? Thirsty? Might be the Mobile Web Answer You Need

Kirsty Styles

So I'm fresh out of a meeting with the two young and, dare I say, trendy founders of AWARE agency, mobile product and design partners Elina Hedman and Andy Bennett.

With pretty hefty mobile heritage between them, including MIG, blippar, nimbletank and Somo, where they met, they have decided to see if leaner is better when it comes to working in mobile.

Cue the first of what they say will be one service created every month by AWARE. is a mobile site that uses Foursquare's API and the native map on your phone to deliver suggestions that answer just two needs: 'I'm hungry' or 'I'm thirsty'.

“We’d go to a new location around London every week because we want to explore but the tools that were available, Google, Yelp, often presented old and outdated content,” product director Hedman said. “ makes it easier for people to find places to go without downloading an app.”

The site curates whatever social stamp is in the area so it works anywhere that Foursquare users have been, but doesn't require you to try and be the mayor of somewhere in order to use it. You can get directions or give the venue a call, as well as sharing your chosen location with friends.

The pair have designed the back-end to be flexible, using simple HTML and CSS so it works on any internet-ready phone. “Most brands are in their second wave of mobile and have spent upwards of £100,000 on something that's ended up on the rubbish tip,” said Bennett, experience director. “We're conscious of creating things that are flexible enough so that it's not going to be a waste, not going to be thrown away.

“We started off letting users search for a place on Tips, but after putting it in front of some early adopters, we realised that was more like future planning. After we opened up the Foursquare API, we knew there were loads of things we could leverage. We chose to focus on food and drink because that seemed to have the most traction.”

The pair work on a 'lean start-up' model, bunking up with whatever business they're working with, creating something rough without spending any time on PhotoShop and testing it with users to quickly expose any mistakes.

The killer question – how do you make money with Tips? They said this could come from forging relationships with local venues and placing advertising on the site. Or they said they may start to create a premium offer by pulling out the best tips.

Just so you don't think they're slacking off, while they have been developing and testing their first site, and winning a Future Web Award for their efforts, they have also been working with brands and agencies offering them their own style of mobile development.
Whether that's helping a tech provider sell its idea to the public, or working as a product team to lead a big dev project for a brand. Most recently, they moved in with a retailer to help them design a new user experience and user interface. “It took us three weeks – most agencies take three months. We have fixed costs and we're honest about what we can do,” Hedman said.

“We collaborate with lots of different people. We're happy to set people up to work with the brands or agencies we meet if they've got the skills we haven't. We'd rather get less money working collaboratively with people to make great products. It's not necessarily about making millions.”

The issue that AWARE faces of course is that there is no shortage of apps whose raison d’etre is to help you find things to eat, drink or do close by. And as if to prove how hard it is to make money from them, four months ago, Poynt, the company behind one of the best-known of these apps, filed for bankruptcy protection. The company went into receivership on 1 November. 

That said, the 'less is more' approach that Tips takes is a refreshing idea, and one that may just prove a winner when businesses need to get more for less.