Sonar, Pearescope, and Other NYC Companies Take Aim in Battle to Connect New Contacts

9/29/11Follow @jpruth

When New York startup Sonar rolled out the latest version of its networking app on Sept. 15, it included for—the first time—data from LinkedIn. Now armed with contact information gleaned from a business-oriented social network, Sonar’s app is trying to attract more professionals to the ranks of its users. This is the latest competitive move in the war to make social connections more useful and mobile.

Sonar’s CEO and founder Brett Martin says his company, which has raised a seed round with undisclosed backers, has helped make more than 60,000 introductions since its app was released in May at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC.

Meanwhile Pearescope, another New York-based startup, is preparing to release its similarly-themed app this fall, according to CEO and founder Whit Schrader. Pearescope has also raised seed funding, but Schrader declined to reveal who his backers are.

Connecting professionals with new clients, potential hires, and other opportunities may elevate such social-contact apps from novelties to real-world business tools.

While other apps are available for keeping track of contacts, Sonar is among the first that’s aimed at introducing users to relevant new connections in person. The addition of LinkedIn data, Martin says, can make the app particularly useful for networking.

Users of Sonar are introduced to potential contacts based on their mutual connections. Through Foursquare check-ins, Sonar alerts the users to people in the area they are connected with on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. Sonar’s app is currently available for the iPhone but not Android or BlackBerry devices.

Rather than hunt through random new faces at an event to find worthwhile new contacts, Martin believes one-year-old Sonar can help users home in on the types of professionals they are searching for. “If you are going to meet 20 people, why not make it the 20 people that you should be connected with?” he asks.

Martin says a race is on to bring social contact data from the Web to mobile in ways that have real-world use. “There’s a gold rush of people building applications to help navigate that data in a physical context,” he says. However, Martin had no comment on specific rivals such as Pearescope. “I have too much of my own stuff to worry about,” he says.

Much like Sonar, Pearescope also promises to introduce its users to new acquaintances with whom they share mutual contacts. Schrader left the neuroscience doctoral program at Vanderbilt University to found Schrader Labs, later renamed Pearescope, in 2009. “Schrader Labs was going to umbrella into other verticals in this space,” he says. Schrader relocated from Nashville to New York in June.

Schrader says Pearescope included LinkedIn information in a beta version of its app, but the forthcoming release will rely on Facebook data at first. He says LinkedIn information will be added at a later date.

Others startups such as Hashable and Addieu, both in New York, offer their own apps for organizing contacts, but the users must make their own introductions. Neither Addieu nor Hashable search the area around their users for new contacts, however the apps do include information to show the relevance of each social connection.

Addieu, for example, lets users track their own Foursquare check-ins that relate to where and when each contact was met. Hashable similarly keeps a record of such information via Foursquare check-ins.

Apps for making introductions between professionals can be found at some business conferences, but so far are rare in general usage. Qrious in New York, for example lets users create profiles to share contact information with other folks at events. The company wants to take its app out of the convention hall and into the streets, as well.

In spite of any perceived similarities to Sonar, Schrader says Pearescope will not use Foursquare check-ins that he says raise questions about privacy. “The check-in model allows everyone to see where you are,” he says. “There really is no filter.”

That concern, however, may have to do with Foursquare users not policing their own information. Martin says Sonar only takes publicly available profile details from sources such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. “We’re not showing anything that anyone isn’t already broadcasting on the Web,” he says.

João-Pierre S. Ruth is the editor of Xconomy New York. He can be reached at jpruth@xconomy.com and followed on Twitter @jpruth. Follow @jpruth

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  • Sophia Jones-Thompson

    I used Sonar at an event to find people to speak with, but then I had to use Hashable to store their data, and create a reminder to send a follow-up email. I don’t see these two apps working in competition with one another, but rather in tandem. Secondly, Sonar is a uni-feature based app. It is a thrill. While it definitely helps make introductions easier, it is not feature-bulky enough to have widespread, long-term success. But Brad is a smart guy, I’m excited to see where he takes it.

    Just to clarify, Hashable is an app that helps people connect, but the beauty of Hashable is its ability to store and save information in a lightweight intuitive way. It also helps you manage the contacts you have in your database to better keep in touch, which is where Sonar is missing the market.

    I’m excited to where Pearescope goes and how it prompts introductions without Forusquare data.

  • http://www.sonar.me Brett

    Thanks for the write up João!

    Brett from Sonar
    @Brett1211

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