Skyhook CEO Jeff Glass on Growth, Google, & the Glitz of Indoor Location

5/29/13Follow @gthuang

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Glass gave a pretty glowing update on the business. “The company is growing really fast again,” he says. He adds that every customer up for renewal in the past six months has renewed, and “a lot of new customers outside of the core mobile device side” have signed up. That includes app developers and enterprise customers, he says. (It sounds like Skyhook is going after more $100K-ish deals on top of its million-dollar deals with big customers.)

At the same time, the company’s core business appears to be growing nicely. “We have a shot at doubling the business this year,” he says.

Skyhook has about 30 employees and is looking to be in the 40s by the end of this year, Glass says. The company has raised about $17 million in venture funding, but none since 2007. Its investors include Bain Capital Ventures, RRE Ventures, Intel Capital, and CommonAngels.

Finally, I asked Glass about one of the hot mobile trends of the day: indoor location. Basically, technology to pinpoint the position of a mobile device when you’re at the office, in a mall, or at home (where GPS doesn’t work). It’s an area of intense interest for both young startups and the Apples and Googles of the world, who want to cash in on applications in retail, mapping, and other markets. But the question seemed to touch a nerve.

“Much of the technology around how you do indoor location was created by Skyhook 10 years ago,” Glass says. “Saying there’s a sector called ‘indoor location’ is a misnomer.”

He continues: “What you care about is context. It matters that you’re at a concert, not that it’s indoors. I think location applications are going to boom indoors. But we should leverage the infrastructure that’s already in place.”

Glass is talking about using existing Wi-Fi signals, which Skyhook incorporates in its technology (along with the known location and density of wireless access points in some cases). He says for the vast majority of use cases, the location resolution from Wi-Fi is good enough to preclude using visible light, infrared, ultrasound, or other positioning methods. “If I can see [something in a room], being more precise is incrementally useful,” he says.

This is all pretty indicative of Skyhook’s place in the mobile world—an early pioneer fighting off challenges from the latest entrants. And still moving forward. “We’re doing work on indoor positioning,” Glass acknowledges, for a number of beta customers.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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