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Interview: Michael Dalesandro, CEO "Where I've Been"

Where I've Been
The "social networking" space is chock-full of applications, plug-ins and other bits and pieces designed to hopefully enhance the user's experience online and potentially in their real lives as well. Unfortunately, some of these applications or plug-ins are often uninspired and do little, if anything, to accomplish this goal.

Sometimes, however, an application or plug-in is able to provide user's with useful services and a forum to express themselves. Case in point, "Where I've Been," an application and a stand-alone website which can actually enhance the user's experience by providing useful tools such as travel-related tips, interactive maps and a forum to showcase and discuss where they've traveled to.

At the helm of "Where I've Been" is CEO Michael Dalesandro who, in a short time, has managed to transform "Where I've Been" from its humble beginnings into a very successful application in use by millions of users each day. Recently, I sat down with with him to discuss "Where I've Been," what it does and where its going.

CHRIS ULLRICH: Michael, thanks for taking the time to talk with me.


CU: How and when did you first get involved with "Where I've been"?

MD: Craig Ulliott was working for as a developer when he brought me the concept for "Where I've Been." He wrote the application and then it launched on Facebook first. That's where it all started.

CU: For someone unfamiliar with "Where I've been", can you describe it?

MD: "Where I've Been" is a simple way for people to connect and express themselves primarily through their travel experiences. It allows the user to highlight their travels graphically and show what places, cities, countries they've been to.

The can share where they have been, where have lived and where they want to go with friends, family and others.

CU: How does "Where I've been" benefit the user? Why should someone use it?
MD: It's a badge to show people where they have traveled and also helps encourage their friends and family to interact with them about their travel. With a few simple clicks, the user can share their travels with their friends, compare maps and even plan new and exciting trips together.

Plus, its just a lot of fun.

For those who don't already know, give us a bit of info on your background. School, business experience, that kind of thing?

Sure. I started my college career wanting to be a Creative Director in and ad agency. After 2 years of school and looking for a summer job my cousin, a trader on the Chicago Board Option Exchange, offered me job as his clerk.

After working with him, I decided to abandon my ad agency aspirations and transfer schools to Loyola University of Chicago. There I received my degree in Finance. After graduation I took a full-time position on the trading floor in Chicago, eventually trading for myself. Around that time I started my own trading firm, DRO WST Trading.

That's what I've been doing as my "day job" for the last ten years. Until recently.

CU: Have you always been interested in technology and technology-related companies?

Until the last few years, the closest I had come to technology, besides being an end-user, was being a lead market maker for Yahoo at the exchange. My first experience being involved as a principal in a technology company came when I funded a Chicago-based web design and software company called several years ago.

That got me hooked and I've been spending much more time doing that lately than anything else. Technology is my future.

CU: What are your plans for "Where I've been?"

MD: One of our first goals is to introduce the application across the social Graph and have it available for users of Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, Orkut and wherever else we can. We're also working to enhance the stand-alone site as well to increase its usefulness to those users not currently participating at any social networking sites like Facebook or MySpace.

We're also planning other ways to enhance "Where I've Been" including featuring user-generated reviews, tips and deals. We're also going to have enhanced maps which will feature videos highlighting various destination and attractions such a restaurants, bars, museums and other points of interest.

And, we're moving into the mobile space as soon as possible and will be bringing the "Where I've Been" experience to iPhones and other mobile devices.

Our overall goal is to make "Where I've Been" a centralized "travel hub" for users no matter which social networking site they happen to use -- and even if they use none at all.

CU: What one feature of the software have you really wanted to roll out but haven't been able to yet?

MD: Group travel planning and booking. We're working on that and trying to get it rolled out as soon as we can.

CU: How many users does the software have now?

MD: We have over 5 million individual installs on Facebook and climbing.

CU: Where do you see "Where I've Been" going from here? In six months? A year?

MD: We're working on better integration with MySpace and will be announcing something pretty exciting with them any day now. In fact, by the time people read this our plans for MySpace may already be released.

There's also going to be some additions to the stand-alone website and a redesign as well coming up soon. We also see ourselves being the leading travel social utility where you can share, search, book and express yourself. We're working to expand that aspect of the stand-alone site as well.

CU: Any other projects coming up for you or your company related to this software or on their own?

MD: At the moment, I'm concentrating on making "Where I've Been" the most useful tool we can. We are also working on a few social gaming travel applications and a few others at the monument but I can't comment on them.

I can say I'm very excited about where the company is heading and we're going to have some great stuff for users in the near future.

CU: Ok Michael, thanks for your time.

MD: No problem. My pleasure.

Tags: applications, facebook, myspace, social, travel, tweet-this