The idea of people checking their mobile phones and knowing my whereabouts just strikes me as an opportunity for stalking and ambushing. After all, as a journalist, I may do the same, if they entered my radar. That said, however intrusive it may sound, most people do like to be found. Look no further than your Facebook or Twitter feed, where every other post is about someone's whereabouts and the cool things they're doing.
Yet there hasn't been a standard mobile platform that allows people to see who's around them and how they exactly know them, though by the time my youngest son (21 months) is 12 years old, I'm sure it'll exist. One service hoping to be the underlying platform that helps people know who's around them is SocialRadar, which as of today is available for download on an iPhone.
“We give you an aggregation of all key data across your networks," said Michael Chasen, founder and CEO of SocialRadar, which raised $12.75 million in seed financing from New Enterprise Associates, Grotech Ventures, and SWaN and Legend Ventures, along with notable angels, such as Steve Case and Ted Leonsis. Essentially, when an user signs up, he or she can give SocialRadar her LinkedIn, Google Plus, Foursquare, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook accounts. Just like Vator, SocialRadar requires users to sign in using Facebook. By encouraging users to provide their social network account information, SocialRadar can then give a person "an holistic" view of the people around them and how they're connected, said Chasen.
While apps that allow you to discover who's around you may sound familiar, unlike other "mobile discovery apps" to help you meet new people around you, like Highlight (which raised $4M from DFJ this past December), Sonar (which is now out of business) and 1Mind, SocialRadar isn't about discovering "new" people around you, rather people you know.
"There are a number of social discovery apps," Chasen explained. "Our app isn't meant to be spontaneous and making dating connections. We're focused on giving you information in total about people around you."
In his demo [see video], Chasen showed just how the app will initially work. When you sign on, you'll see categories, such as everyone, friends, and friends of friends. There's also "favorites," where you can tag your favorite people.
If you click on the categories, say "Everyone," you see a list of people and how you know them and their interests and other information, like the company they work for or the school they went to. If you click on that person's profile, you'll get more tabs that can direct you to a person's news feeds across the networks they've attached to SocialRadar as well as their location.
The location tab lets you see who's around you as close as 25 feet. Since 25 feet won't tell you what floor a person is on, SocialRadar also has a check in feature so you can check in on a particular floor (if you really must have people know exactly where you are).
And you can hit "chat" and if that person is on SocialRadar, you can send him a note.
In example of how this service could be used, Chasen explained that a person may be doing a project and in need of someone who speaks another language, like Arabic. With SocialRadar, that person could see who's around him that may speak that language. While this has never happened to me before, I can imagine a service like this could be useful in an emergency, like when someone needs a doctor (though doctors typically make themselves known and come to a stranger's aid in time of crisis).
No doubt, Chasen knows how to build a company to an IPO. He's also committed and clearly (as you can see from the video) a very good communicator. The company has enough fire power with the millions it's raised. The question for SocialRadar is whether it can get the massive number of users to sign on and give their social network information. It will come down to how much of an utility the service is.
Today, people are on Facebook because it's one big photo album. That certainly wasn't the case 10 years ago when it started. I know. I covered Facebook extensively, and I didn't think of that. But today Facebook is a social imperative, if you want to stay in touch with family and friends.
I asked Chasen what people would think of SocialRadar 10 years from now. "This will be an app that’s so fundamental on how they connect if not into your smartphone, it’ll be on Google Glass and then Android," said Chasen. "The wearable technologies is perfect for SocialRadar."
Watch my video interview with Chasen explaining how he plans on marketing and distributing SocialRadar.