Stray Boots, a New York-based startup that got its start delivering guided tour scavenger hunt games to tourists and city dwellers around the world via SMS, and which recently made the move to mobile apps, today announced a new $2 million Series A funding round, led by Milestone Venture Partners and including Correlation Ventures, Great Oaks and a number of angel investors. The company, launched in 2009, hopes to use the money to bring on additional staff to help it build out its fledgling suite of mobile applications, add additional social features, and expand its U.S. reach in the coming months.
Location-based gaming is not a novel concept, and in fact has origins in the practice of geocaching, whereby people seed cities and other locations with treasure troves or caches and then share their approximate location with others via the web and mobile apps. One of the goals of geocaching is to folks out exploring and engaging with their local community, and that’s part of what Stray Boots wants to accomplish, too. CEO Avi Millman told me that while tourism is definitely part of his company’s business, groups of locals are equally important, too.
“We don’t really consider ourselves a travel company,” Milland said. “[Our target market] is a small group, it could be friends, family, a couple who’s buying tickets and playing one of our terms any time they want, on their schedule and at their pace. Incidentally, once we started building the product, we started realizing their was a larger demand for colleges and businesses and other organizational outings, too.”
Stray Boots has a straightforward pay-to-play model, with users paying up for individual scavenger hunt, sightseeing experiences. On the recently released iPhone app, users can purchase content packs via in-app purchase, which cost $11.99 per area for neighborhoods in New York City. Millman said that while NYC is the first city Stray Boots is covering in mobile, the company plans to quickly introduce a centralized app from which it’ll cover all cities with additional content packs. That global app should hit in December, Millman anticipates, with coverage for Stray Boots’ other existing markets rolling out gradually in-app city-by-city after that.
The company has seen over 128,000 hours of use, covering 800,000 challenges completed by users so far. Millman said that starting life on SMS was the right move, since it allowed the company to have widespread reach out the gate, and focus on building a simple experience that doesn’t distract from the actual adventures Stray Boots is sending users on. He believes those principles are carried over into the new mobile apps, but recognizes that the iPhone (and Android smartphones, support for which is coming soon) represent a significant, potentially very lucrative future opportunity.
Of course, Stray Boots isn’t the only company in the exploratory, location-based gaming market. Google recently debuted Field Trip, a project from Niantic Labs designed to offer similar functionality, and for free. But with this new funding round, Stray Boots has the opportunity to capitalize and expand on early success while Google and others are still just dipping their toes in the market.