Ban.jo Breaches the Barriers Between Location-Based Apps

7/13/11

More and more social networks are offering geolocation. How does a person keep up without joining every service under the sun? A Palo Alto, CA-based startup called Ban.jo hopes to become geo-location central by allowing iPhone or Android mobile users to see who’s nearby, no matter what social network they may be using.

Ban.jo founder Damien Patton, who launched the free app at the end of June, says it has already been downloaded in over 100 countries. He wants to make all geolocation services more useful to more people by eliminating the barrier of having to sign up on a case-by-case basis. So far, Ban.jo users can see the locations of people who have declared their locations via Twitter, Foursquare, Gowalla, or Facebook.

“We are a layer that sits on top of all these existing social networks,” Patton says. He offers the example of a person stuck in an airport using Ban.jo to discover other social networkers who may be in the same predicament.

A Desert Storm veteran and MIT MBA, Patton says he also wants to help mobile users filter conversations, so someone looking for a nearby restaurant could get recommendations in real time.

Asked about plans to make the free software profitable, Patton said his focus now is listening to early adopters and adding features they suggest.

“It’s not about putting an ad on the app. The hard part is building a community,” Patton says, adding that if Ban.jo becomes the nexus of location-based, social networking, that position is bound to be valuable.

Short-term plans include making Ban.jo available on the iPad and Windows 7, among other platforms.

Ban.jo is currently a 10-person company with an undisclosed amount of backing from Blue Run Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.

Here’s a short video Ban.jo produced to illustrate the app’s features:


Banjo from Banjo Inc on Vimeo.

Tom Abate is a freelance writer in the San Francisco Bay Area who has covered science, high-tech, biotech, and economics. Follow @

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