Kismet, a mobile app to discover people nearby, announced Wednesday that it's raised seed funding from a host of investors, including Triple Point Ventures, NEA and a number of angels investors, including Shiva Rajaraman, head of consumer at YouTube, Stephanie Hannon, an early product manager at Gmail, Ben Narasin and Roham Gharegozlou.
Founded in February 2011, Kismet is part of AngelPad's winter 2011 class. At the time, its original idea was to be a next-generation dating site.
It hasn't ventured too far from this idea.
Now, the San Francisco-based start-up is focusing on helping people find one another who are nearby. "Kismet is an app that lets users find people and events nearby," said Kevin Stephens, founder and CEO of Kisemt, in an interview with me.
To sign up, just download the app from an iPhone, and log in using your Facebook account. This helps Kismet get access to your friend network, or to use the au courant word "social graph." Then you can see which of your Facebook friends are on Kismet and within a close proximity. The app will also tell you how you're connected to that person.
Anyone can also check into places so the app just doesn't tell you if a friend is a mile away, but it will tell you the exact location. "Knowing how far you are is valuable," said Stephens. "But knowing exactly which bar you're at is more so."
If this sounds similar to other apps that help you discover folks nearby, it's because it is. Other mobile apps with similar services include Sonar and Glancee. The difference in those services comes down to features. For instance, with Glancee, you can't check into locations. But the app does tell you which friends you have in common.
Another unique feature to Kismet is that it allows people to create events and invite the world (or anyone who's watching) to attend. So, let's say you want to have happy hour drinks with a girlfriend, but you wouldn't mind letting others know where you'll be. You can create a happy hour drinks event and invite your girlfriend and make that event public. Others who are connected to you (indirectly or directory) and who are nearby that particular event, will be able to see that it's taking place.
At the moment, Kismet has only soft launched, so they team is staying mum on their registration numbers. But starting this weekend and throughout SXSW, Kismet plans to get the word out. They plan on having a team of people passing out fliers announcing "spontaneous happy hour drinks," said Michelle Norgan, who co-founded Kismet with Stephen. Anyone who shows up to these happy hours will get a free drink, if they're on Kismet.
By focusing on events, the Kismet team hope they can stand out of the people-discovery mobile app crowd. Events are a great way to break the ice and meet like-minded people, said Norgan. Kismet is also trying to enforce the notion that those on Kismet "want to meet new people." So if someone is on Kismet, they're actually willingly open to meet people. This psychology has its roots in Kismet's original purpose as an online dating app.