Mobile Socializing: Limbo Merges With Brightkite And Announces $9 Million Funding Round

In the nascent world of mobile social networking, there are the big dogs (Facebook and MySpace) and everyone who wants to be a big dog. Two of the puppies just got bigger. Limbo is buying Brightkite, which all the tech kids are raving about, in a nearly all-stock transaction. It will change its name to Brightkite in a re-branding move, and gain Brightkite’s engineering team and product smarts. Limbo CEO Jonathon Linner will remain as CEO, while Brightkite founders Martin May and Brady Becker will take over product management and design.

Meanwhile, Limbo brings a lot of cash to the table, having just raised a previously undisclosed $9 million round of financing in January, 2009. Nexit Ventrures was the lead, and existing investors Azure Capital, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and New Enterprise Associates also participated. Brightkite, meanwhile, started out as a TechStars startup and was funded with just $1 million in angel money. This marks the third exit from TechStars’s Class of 2007—the other two being SocialThing to AOL and IntenseDebate to Automattic.

The combined company will employ 35 people and boast two million active users. That should keep it in the running with other growing mobile social networks such as Loopt, which has more than one million active users, Mig33, which may have 10 million or more and MocoSpace, which has 3.5 million active users. The enlarged engineering team should help Limbo/Brightkite push out new features at a faster pace and keep up with the front pack.

Both Limbo and Brightkite have iPhone apps, and both use Facebook Connect to plug into people’s existing social network. Here is how we described the Brightkite app when it first came out:

The app allows users to syndicate their current location to their friends, meet nearby Brightkite users, and lifestream with the equivalent of geo-encoded Tweets. The application is tied to Yahoo’s Fire Eagle, which allows users to manage their location from a number of other services. The site also uses databases to automatically associate POI’s and cross streets with GPS locations, so user positions aren’t simply displayed as coordinates.

Meanwhile, Limbo is more centered around the activities of the people around you and connecting with them that way. We included Limbo in this roundup, where we concluded it could do a better job with locating the exact position of friends on a map. Brightkite’s Fire Eagle implementation should help with that.

Something tells me this is just the beginning of the consolidation in mobile social networking.