EchoEcho is one of the more useful location-based applications on the market today. Instead of focusing on check-ins and deals, the application simply makes it easy for you to find out where your friends are and lets you set up a meeting with them. Last September, EchoEcho raised $750,000 from Google Ventures, UK-based venture firm PROfounders and Don Dodge. The company just told us that it has raised another $750,000. This round was led by Bullpen Capital with participation by PROfounders Capital. EchoEcho plans to use this new funding to grow its team and focus on user acquisition.
In its current iteration, EchoEcho lets you quickly figure out where one of your friends currently is with just a few taps. To ensure privacy, your location is also automatically shared with the friends you try to locate. From there, you can either use the built-in chat to organize a meeting or use the app’s built-in location database to decide on which bar, coffee shop, restaurant or other public place you want to meet at. Users who don’t have the app installed will receive a text message and can then use the service’s web app to update their location. EchoEcho is currently available for all the major smartphone platforms, including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone. The company’s current and future development efforts will focus on iOS, Android and Windows Phone, however.
EchoEcho was founded in 2010 and the company has been iterating over this problem of how to make location-sharing useful ever since. The core concepts behind the app (simplicity and privacy) haven’t really changed since then, though. In a day and age where biannual pivots aren’t unusual, that’s a long time to work on a single product, but the work is clearly starting to pay off for EchoEcho. The company’s co-founder and CEO Nick Bicanic told us that he has some major announcements planned for later this summer, but sadly refused to provide us with more details at this stage.
Talking about today’s investment, Bullpen’s Duncan Davidson told us that Bullpen likes to “invest in essential mobile apps that everyone should be using. A Find Friends app is such an app. EchoEcho is designed to be useful, not cute. It remains in the control of the user, and makes it easier for people to meet up, rather than broadcast ambient location or require a check-in.”
We also asked Don Dodge about his reasons for investing in EchoEcho in the previous round. In his view, the need for accurate location services is exploding. Dodge also noted that he thinks, “Nick Bicanic is a true visionary in location-based services, and EchoEcho is a great example of what can be done.”
With this new funding, EchoEcho plans to add more group features to the app. Group features have long been missing from the app. As Bicanic told me, it took the team a long time to figure out how to best design this functionality. The company is also working on providing better support for indoor location and has partnered with Walkbase and WiFiSlam (another company Don Dodge invested in) to improve its indoor location features (it first tested these features at SXSW earlier this year and is currently running at trial at Stanford University as well). Also on EchoEcho’s roadmap is support for tablets and integration with Facebook.
What’s interesting about the company is that it is also looking outside the traditional markets for location apps. It just did a deal with Pioneer, for example, to bring its service to Pioneer’s AppRadio platform for in-car apps. In addition to this, as Bicanic told me, the company is also thinking about how mobile location technology could be used in developing countries to, for example, locate doctors or a mobile ATM.
At its core, though, EchoEcho is about figuring out how to best answer the question, “Where are you?” Bicanic is pretty outspoken about the fact that he doesn’t think ambient location tools like Highlight are the answer to this, as there are too many technological and social issues (think battery life and privacy) that currently condemn these apps to remain niche products. Instead, he says, people just want to figure out when and where to pick up their friend at the airport or where to best meet for coffee.