A new generation of location apps is here, just in time for the world’s best event for using them: the South By Southwest music, film and tech extravaganza starting next week in Austin, Texas. Ahead of it, my favorite of the bunch, Highlight, is announcing that it’s pushing out a new version for the event, and bringing in funding.
But before I get into the news, what’s special about Highlight, and competitors like Glancee? Instead of asking you to check in, they simply run in the background, sending notifications to you when interesting people are physically near. For SXSW, these apps can help you sort out the most relevant folks from the crowd.
The way Highlight’s iOS app works, in particular, is that it has you log in with Facebook, then it shows you anyone nearby who has friends or even just interests in common as you go about your day-to-day life (note that interests equals Facebook pages that you’ve mutually liked). In contrast with other location apps, like Foursquare, which are designed around users checking in to the places they go, there’s no friction — just pure discover. The simple map-focused interface and the easy messaging system have helped me meet a few long-lost friends already.
Onto the news: coming up for SXSW, the company says it’s planning to expand on these features by adding new ways of surfacing connections, and somehow saving them for future use. I haven’t had a chance to test, yet, but here’s how the company describes the update:
We want Highlight to make Austin even more fun for you – by surprising you with hidden connections, surfacing information about the people you meet, and helping you remember these people when you bump into them at a random New York coffee shop a year later. You can expect to see some useful enhancements to search and discovery, new ways to interact with people, and continued improvements to performance and battery life.
Reading between the lines, this sounds sort of like an address book service. Meet someone new but connected to you on Highlight, somehow note this on the app, and have this action make them more likely to surface on it later. The company has also just pushed the app out worldwide, which should be especially useful for SXSW attendees because the event attracts so many people from around the world.
The investment is a seed round led by Benchmark Capital, where co-founder Paul Davison was an entrepreneur in residence working on the idea, as well as SV Angel, CrunchFund and unnamed angel investors.
Highlight is a mobile ambient awareness app. When you come within a few blocks of another Highlight user who is your Facebook friend or that you have friends or interests in common with, Highlight sends you a push notification and lets you message them. The app’s homescreen displays a reverse chronological list of all the people you’ve crossed paths with.