Just when you thought this space couldn't get any more saturated, yet another ambient location app throws its hat into the ring as SXSW prepares to kick off. Introducing INTRO. But wait, before you groan “enough already!“, you should know that INTRO at least has a unique take on the location-based social introductions market. Unlike the majority of this year's crop of location-based networking apps, INTRO's angle is business introductions. Built on top of LinkedIn, the app lets you specify who you're looking to meet by both industry and profession, then enables you to make that connection.
The app shares a lot in common with others in this newly-hot space, but offers a unique selection of features which the company hopes will give it life beyond the social blowout that is SXSW.
“SXSW is a great place for us to launch, but the social side of things always gets the biggest hype there,” explains INTRO co-founder Anthony Erwin, “but while we're incredibly useful for events and conferences – and we'll be great at SXSW – we're more interested in promoting the side of us that's really useful for startups, which is to specify exactly who you're looking for.”
Like competitors Highlight and Glancee, INTRO runs in the background, alerting you to people nearby who you may want to meet. But unlike most of the competition, INTRO requires that you sign into the app using your LinkedIn account. The entire experience here is built on LinkedIn – the app uses your LinkedIn profile data to determine what industry you're in, and suggest possible matches nearby.
However, once signed up, you can also connect your social networking accounts from Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, so you're not limited to seeing only those who are on INTRO's network. In this way, the app is like Sonar or Banjo, tracking check-ins and geo-tagged tweets to see who's nearby. These are included in a separate section of the app.
To get started with INTRO, you first configure a user profile which allows you to facilitate business introductions. This makes the app more of a competitor to something like the business-focused Mingle, for example. But Mingle lacks the “social proof” provided by INTRO – that is, INTRO tells you how many connections/friends you have in common on social networks, which helps when you're trying to reach out to people you don't know.
In your profile, you specify your job title, as well as the titles of others you want to meet. This is all done using a smart tagging system – no typing needed. (Hooray!) On your profile, where it reads “I am in the _______ scene and work as a _________” you can tap on the fields to switch industries (e.g. “Tech,” “Media,” “Marketing/PR, etc.”) and title (e.g. “Journalist/Blogger,” “Director/Founder,” “Architect,” etc.)
You then do the same for the “Looking to Meet” section below, optionally specifying the industry and/or the job title you're in search of. When INTRO finds possible connections, you can view all their data, including name, bio, distance, tweets, what they have in common with you and who you both know.
INTRO also has a cool “teleport” feature that lets you virtually travel to any place you want in order to network. So if you can't actually attend SXSW, you can still reach out to those who are there. This feature is free if you invite 3 friends to INTRO, but will be a premium offering in the future.
Because the app is meant for business, not dating or social networking, there's a layer of privacy to the experience, too.
“Privacy is actually a unique feature, which seems completely nuts to me,” Erwin laughs. “Or maybe I'm just getting old.”
You can reach out to others using INTRO, but unless they accept your invite to connect, you can't message them in the app, he explains.
Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – INTRO uses proprietary server-side technology that aims to increase the battery life of location-based apps. While the details are being guarded, Erwin's explanation of how the app knows when to smartly shut off the phone's GPS, for example, sounds a lot like what the social tracker Glassmap was up to.
The company, co-founded by Anthony Erwin and Mike Small, is the newest member of Dogpatch Labs in NYC. Both founders have previous entrepreneurial experience, specifically with dating service StreetSpark, and have worked with location technologies for the past two years. The London- and N.Y.-based team, which also includes three developers, came together five months ago to create INTRO.
INTRO is currently bootstrapping, but is planning on raising seed funding soon.
The app is available on the iPhone here, and the Android version will launch in about a month, with Windows Phone to follow.