Loopd Launches Location-Tracking Tools For Conferences, With Backing From Tim Draper And Marc Benioff

If you’ve ever finished a busy day at a conference — either manning one of the booths or just as a regular attendee — and then found yourself struggling to remember who the heck you actually talked to, a startup called Loopd may be able to help.

The company is officially launching its proximity-based marketing platform today, and it’s also announcing that it has raised $1 million in angel funding. That funding comes from Tim Draper of Draper Fisher Jurvetson (apparently the company emerged from Draper’s entrepreneur training program, the Draper University of Heroes), Salesforce.com CEO Marc Benioff, and Vuclip co-founder Xinhui Nui.

According to co-founder and CEO Brian Friedman, Loopd combines bi-directional beacons placed around an event space, chips that can be included in conference badges, and a mobile app. The system then tracks an attendee’s location throughout the event, and at the end of the day, attendees can open the app and see where they spent their time, then access related documents, videos, and other content. Similarly, marketers can see who visited their booths, and they can direct their follow-up efforts accordingly.

You can also use the app to take notes, and export information from the app to your sales software. Draper said this could make conference-going much easier, because he’ll no longer need to have an associate or analyst tagging along to take notes as he made the rounds. And for those of us who don’t come to conferences with our own analysts, it’ll be less necessary to constantly swap business cards and collect marketing brochures.

“The idea is that we don’t want to change user behavior — it’s really an amazing passive experience,” Friedman added. In other words, there’s no phone bumping or QR code scanning. You can just walk around and have conversations the way you normally would, and the information is automatically tracked for you.

The risk, of coursed, is that Loopd opens the door to getting bombarded with messages from companies you really don’t care about. But Friedman said attendees can control the information they share through the app, and they can also set their badges to anonymous mode.

Asked about the platform’s reliability, Friedman said different aspects of the technology have been tested at “internal events.” While I don’t know much about beacon technology, I was also curious about how the platform deals with limited cell phone reception and slow WiFi speed can take a hit, which are a pretty big problem at crowded events. Friedman said that if the WiFi goes down, the chips will continue tracking your location and update your data once the signal returns.

Some other details about the chips — they cost less than $5 each to produce, and they can last for up to two weeks.

Oh, and Draper also suggested that conferences (specifically the corporate events that Friedman said he’s targeting initially) are just a good starting point for Loopd’s vision — the device could eventually become a much broader source of location data, as devices and applications that need such data proliferate.

“This is a big idea,” he said.