Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Forget Facebook, Twitter and Groupon - geocaching is the real thing

We all hear about Facebook, twitter and Groupon how great these social networks are, and how much their possible market value is from 2bln to 50bln depending which one we look into it. But do they really any good for us? Groupon saves us money, but the rest?

However there is one of the older social networks which is totally underestimated. And i have to admit i did it as well. I am talking about geocaching.com. I heard about this few years ago but did not keep it on my radar till recently. I did read two months ago an article in NYTimes about geocaching and then a few weeks ago from my boss that he does geocaching, after i asked him why did he buy a GPS device.
But the real catch was when my brother in law came to visit us and told us that he is geocaching as well. We tried it out and now i am a member and my whole family enjoys it.

What is geocaching?
You sign up at geocaching. There you input your street address and then you can see were caches are hidden close to your location. A cache is a container which has at least a log paper that people who find the cache can write their handle and date down.
Some container are bigger and have items in there which the player can exchange with another item with same or higher value. The website gives you only the coordinates of the cache and some tips (sometimes only a riddle which you have to solve to get the coordinates). The user takes his smart phone or GPS device and inputs these coordinates. New GPS devices have already a geocaching plugin. Smart phones like iPhone have apps to download. The app at the iPhone costs $9.99 but which is a good investment.

With the app you search for caches and report if you found one, upload images and write logs.
The website has some more functions. To be a member is free, however if you donate $30 for a year you can get some more statistics.
There are 10 different types of caches.

Really interesting are the rare trackables or travel bugs. If you find one you can take it and put it in another cache. On the website you can see from where it traveled. My brother in law found one which did travel from Washington down to Florida.
The caches can be located in a street sign, under a fake stone, in a a fake screw or anywhere in the woods or walls. Mostly the caches are on public property but not in national parks. The website will tell you for each cache how hard it is to find and how hard it is to get there. Many of them have a piece of paper which explains why this item is hidden in case somebody finds it who does not play geocaching.
In the region we live, which is in the woods, are within 10 miles at least 500 caches. I walked at many by without knowing there is a cache hidden. It is a fun social game for the whole family. After a while you will see same handles finding the same cache like you and you start to send these people notes. There are even big caching events with over 500 people coming together.

Geocaching.com is claiming that there are over 1.2 Million caches world wide and 4 million players (did i mention that my brother in law lives in South Korea and plays geocaching there?).
The most players are in the US (it started here) and in Germany (Germans love the nature).
This is the first and only true social network which combines online and offline in a perfect way.
A perfect game for the whole family.
I don't have yet a GPS device and use only my iPhone which is, depending where i am, only 8 to 32 feet exact.
Good GPS devices can be exact as 3 feet which can be very important to find a cache.
We did find at the weekend 16 caches but had no luck with one, which we searched over hours till it got dark. Some caches you can only find when it is dark because they might have some special night color on it. For some you need to be a scuba diver to get to them. I even did hear that one is on the way to the space station.

I believe in a few years there will be more than 50,000,000 players world wide. And guess what, the company which is running geocaching is pretty small. Only 30 employees and a lot of volunteers.

Right now the company makes approx. $30 million in revenue, which is $1 million per employee. This is higher than Facebook, twitter or Groupon does.

Geocaching is very anal that their game is not used for commercial purposes. Brands are not allowed to hid caches and to reward players.

How did i come up with the revenue number?

Geocaching is claiming to have 4 million players, i assume 25% of the registered players are paying $30 a year (low enough that a lot would do to get more service). Which gives us around $30 million. Then there is the merchandise part. You can buy containers for your caches, pins, bugs, trackables, etc. Average price assumption is $6 and maybe 800.00 items sold (I bought an item and the invoice number was pretty high).
This is another $4.8 million over a few years.
The iPhone app has very high rating and over 3200 people did rate the app. Usually 5 to 10 % of people are rating. This gives us approx. 30.000 downloads or $300k gross revenue (minus Apple share).

There we go, the revenue will be somewhere between $25 and 32 million.

If this company gets some investment and the player community is growing then we have a new big social network. With some investment I could see special sub sites for brands to do their own geocaching game through geocaching.com

History of geocaching from wikipedia:

Geocaching is similar to the 150-year-old game letterboxing, which uses clues and references to landmarks embedded in stories. Geocaching was conceived shortly after the removal of Selective Availability from GPS on May 1, 2000, because the improved accuracy[2] of the system allowed for a small container to be specifically placed and located. The first documented placement of a GPS-located cache took place on May 3, 2000, by Dave Ulmer of Beavercreek, Oregon.[3] The location was posted on the Usenet newsgroup sci.geo.satellite-nav[4] as 45°17.460′N 122°24.800′W. By May 6, 2000, it had been found twice and logged once (by Mike Teague of Vancouver, Washington). According to Dave Ulmer's message, the original stash was a black plastic bucket buried most of the way in the ground and contained software, videos books, food, money, and a slingshot.

Jeremy Irish a web developer from Seattle moved the idea into a website called geocaching.com in 2000, which is now the biggest geocaching website.
Please read the full history of geocaching at http://www.geocaching.com/about/history.aspx

I love geocaching. Thank you Jeremy and your team.

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1 comment:

  1. Great article explaining the sport. Thank you.