NYC-based Echolocation, a location-based microblogging mobile app, recently announced that it closed a $200,000 round of seed funding from TechLaunch, Casabona Ventures, in addition to other angel investors. The startup completed the TechLaunch accelerator program and launched its initial iPhone app two months ago, and will look to use the funding to build out the app for additional mobile platforms. It will also be showcasing the app at the SXSW Interactive conference in March, where it plans to connect event attendees with each other on its platform.
Co-founded by Brain Donohue and Rocky Chiu, the duo started the company in 2011 with the goal of connecting its users with the most relevant local updates, news, and event listings. “We position it as a hyper-local version of Twitter, and really what we’re trying to do is facilitate a location-based conversation,” said Donohue in an interview with BetaKit. “Unlike Twitter where you’re following people you’re interested in and engaging in a global conversation with individuals and organizations, on Echo, the conversation is very local.”
Upon opening up the application, Echolocation will detects the city or neighborhood the user is in and provides a feed of 140-character from other users who are in the same area, also pulling in content from local blogs and news sources. Currently, the startup has curated a list of more than 1,300 local blogs in the U.S. that connect its users with more than 200,000 local listings, happenings, and news stories.
The company also leverages hierarchical content indexing, which allow its users to access feeds from outside their neighborhood, to their city, state, country and any other location around the globe. When asked about monetizing the platform, Donohue said they would be following Twitter’s footsteps with native local ads akin to promoted tweets, however, through Echolocation, local SMBs like retailers and restaurants will be able to target users in a very specific area.
However, the company might have a hard time convincing users that its platform is worth it given that there are a multitude of both established and more recent entrants into the location discovery arena. BetaKit covered Banjo when it hit three million users and launched its latest iteration that lets users explore any city in the world and get updates from social network contacts. And for those looking to connect with people they may not be connected with online but who are in their area, there are apps like Highlight, Sonar, and Evzdrop. Though realistically Echolocation’s biggest competition is likely Twitter, since most users follow people in their local area, as well as local publications and news sources.
According to Donohue, unlike other apps that showcase individuals or posts based on two users’ proximity, Echolocation shows posts in context to a neighborhood like ‘financial district’ and ‘Brooklyn,’ in addition to working with local content creators as a distribution channel to help its users get access to the most relevant local news. His vision for the app is for it be used by local schools, fire departments, police stations, and other institutions to change the dynamic of what it means to live in a given community. It has built a special feed just for SXSW 2013 where it will be looking to get feedback for its app from the tech community. Given that ambient discovery apps were a much talked about concept in 2012, it will be interesting to see if it still remains relevant.