App Location Analytics: Placed Exits Stealth Mode With $3.4M In Its Pockets

With the number of apps growing by the day, companies offering analytics on how they are performing have taken on a new focus, and the recent acquisition of Chomp by Apple has put the area positively on the map. Now a company is emerging, Placed, that is zoning in on one area of app analytics in particular: location. Formerly known as Sewichi, today Placed is coming out of stealth mode with a Series A round of $3.4 million.

Leading the investment is Madrona Venture Group, an early investor in companies like Amazon, with participation from Shane Atchison, CEO of WPP company Possible Worldwide, and founder/CEO David Shim. Matt McIlwain, MD at Madrona, has also joined Placed’s board.

Placed today says it is also launching its first product: Placed for Developers. Shim says this takes data that Placed has collected and processed over the last 12 months, covering 851 million raw locations. Developers who access this platform can then use it to track where those who have used its app have been — or as Shim says it, not what has occurred in the app, but outside it. Placed says that using its app gives a much more accurate reading to developers of where a user has actually been.

That can be useful for all sorts of things, not just in terms of pushing content to users, but in terms of serving relevant ads — which in the case of free apps becomes the primary way that developers can earn money.

On top of that kind of raw reporting, Shim’s background in web analytics at places like Quantcast, Farecast, and aQuantive puts the company in a strong position to handle big amounts of data and shape it into quantifiable trends.

Indeed, the company is taking on a crucial but sensitive area in mobile: location. Location very much the crux of a lot of what makes many mobile apps so effective — being able to note where a person is to push relevant content to him, or connect him with relevant people, and we are only just starting to get to grips with how it can be used to make mobile services more effective.

But at the same time, it’s one of those areas where companies need to tread carefully: sharing your location with your best friend is one thing, but do you really want a big advertising company, or a data-collection firm, to also know where you are and have been?

That’s where a third party, managing this on other parties’ behalf, could come in handy. This is not the first time we’ve heard this idea mentioned: researchers at Cambridge University in England doing studies on mobile privacy have also come to the conclusion that perhaps the best solution to managing user data is by giving it over to a third, unassociated party that is neither the app developer nor other potential users of that data, such as advertisers. Were such practices to come into effect, that could spell further opportunity for companies like Placed.