Gowalla founder Josh Williams writes candidly about losing the battle with rival Foursquare. His biggest mistake? He allowed the industry’s main metric of success (the “check in”) be defined by Foursqaure. Instead of approaching the product from his own perspective, Williams was in an arms race with someone else’s weapons and began playing an eternal game of catch-up.

foursquare did a marketing deal with New York Times. We did one with Washington Post and USA Today.

foursquare built an Android client. We built an Android client. foursquare had a Blackberry client. We needed a Blackberry client. Heaven forbid we lose those Blackberry users!

The growing public attention sparked by the investment became both a heaven and a hell. On one hand, during the course of Gowalla’s life we received more tech press coverage than is right and holy for any startup. On the other, I dare you to find a post about Gowalla that doesn’t mention foursquare.

Williams says he let investors and media influence his choices. We should always define what success means to us, and attack it aggressively. Even if it doesn’t capture headlines or win approval from others.

Image: Josh Williams (Credit: Keegan Jones via Old Media New Tricks

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