San Diego’s Bump.com Ready to Hit the Road With Auto-Based Social Networking

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business model that works, that can be rapidly scaled, and let’s find a service for something that everybody has. In this case, what everybody has is an identity through their car.”

Among status-conscious motorists, Thrower says the car “is the largest item of clothing that people wear,” and in Southern California, people spend an estimated five years (on average) of their lives in their cars. He also sees the license plate attached to the car as “something that’s just hanging out there without giving you any value.” But with Bump.com, he says users get “tremendous value in the form of safety, community, and marketing.”

In terms of safety, Bump discourages drivers from using the Bump service while driving. Using the iPhone’s accelerometer technology, Bump also requires a motorist traveling faster than 5 miles per hour to use a voice interface to speak the license plate number and message.

In terms of community, Bump’s social networking capabilities make it easier to meet strangers on the road. Thrower also anticipates that many people will use the Bump Network to notify motorists that they have a broken signal light or to report erratic drivers. Users can notify motorists that their parking meter has expired, their car alarm is sounding, or they left their headlights on. Bump.com also offers a way of helping people put together commuter car pools.

Of course, Bump.com also offers opportunities to abuse other motorists, although Thrower says the network has a “profanity filter” in a bid to defuse “road rage.”

The marketing aspect, however, represents the real meat and potatoes of the Bump Network’s potential value. For example, as part of a partnership with the Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Thrower says Bump.com is “putting everyone who goes to the festival in a database.” He sees similar marketing opportunities for reaching everyone who attends a football game and other sporting events, and in offering discounts for merchandise, restaurants, and other goods and services.

By taking the license plate data for every vehicle that attends a NASCAR race, for example, Thrower says the Bump Network provides a way to deliver targeted messages to consumers attending the event.

As the remaining days to SXSW tick away, Thrower says he’s “not looking to hit it out of the park” at the interactive conference in Texas. After that, he says, “It’s literally nose down and working to launch our product. It should be pretty fun.”

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Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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