That's going to make for a very rich database that other services can tap into. SimpleGeo has taken $1.5m in angel funding from of Silicon Valley's biggest-name investors to try and become the go-to geolocation database resource for the next generation of location-aware applications.
The company was founded by former Digg Chief Architect Joe Stump and the founder of AOL-acquired Social Thing Matt Galligan. Stump explained his company's model to VentureBeat late last year:
"Location-based devices only provide a latitude and a longitude, sometimes an altitude," he said. "What they don't provide is a ZIP Code, city, state, county, weather data, messages and photos posted near the site. They don't provide business listings, Wikipedia entries, census data (for demographics), articles written or posted near the location," all of which SimpleGeo does. For example, a location-based game set in San Francisco could accurately display its players gleaming in the California sun, or obscured by Golden Gate fog, based on the real-time weather data from around town.
The company told Liz Gannes of Gigaom in November that it received 600 beta applications on its first day after announcing itself publicly. Gannes wrote at the time:
"We're selling shovels at the beginning of a gold rush," is how co-founder Matt Galligan put it on a call today. "You want to add location, just come to us -- it's done." Though four-person SimpleGeo still measures its age in months, it already has a price sheet: free, $399/month for small businesses and $2,499/month for custom implementations.
This sort of business model for this particular market has been forecast for some time. 18 months ago analyst firm ABI Research, for example, made the following prediction:
"Location-based mobile social networking revenues will reach $3.3 billion by 2013, but successful business models may differ from what many observers expect," says ABI Research principal analyst Dominique Bonte. "While location-based advertising integrated with sophisticated algorithms holds a lot of promise, the current reality rather points to licensing and revenue-sharing models as the way forward for social networking start-ups to grow their customer base and reach profitability..."
Twitter acquired oft-compared competitor GeoAPI late in 2009 but uptake of Twitter's location data has been slow. Traditional vendors have also long offered geographic data. Those vendors may fall short of developer expectations if SimpleGeo can deliver things like an effective iPhone SDK, OAuth authentication and dynamic data from sources like Twitter and Flickr.
Can SimpleGeo jump to the head of the new location-based parade and capture what's expected to be a huge market? Adding 1 million location-based objects every hour to its database sounds like a great place to come at that market from.