Glympse Raises $12M to Forge More Location-Sharing Partnerships

6/13/14Follow @bromano

[Updated, 8:45 am. See below.] Seattle-based Glympse, which allows people to temporarily share their location from mobile phones and a growing array of other devices, has raised $12 million from UMC Capital, Verizon Ventures, and other investors.

The company is finding its greatest success through partnerships that have seen Glympse integrated directly into mobile handsets, wearable devices, and vehicles. The auto industry has proved particularly difficult for app developers to break into, but Glympse has formed partnerships with nine car makers including BMW, Ford, GM, and Volkswagen.

Co-founder and CEO Bryan Trussel has two explanations for Glympse’s success in partnering with the automotive industry, which is characterized by fragmentation, varied technologies, and a mismatch between some of the largest companies in the world and the small startups that are looking to get their apps installed in cars. First, he says Glympse was designed from the outset to be a flexible platform that could work on any operating system, hardware, and user interface. Second, location-sharing is “just a really cool-use case for cars,” he says. “It’s not us trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.”

Glympse allows users to share their current whereabouts with friends, family, co-workers—anyone they choose—for a fixed amount of time. If you’re on your way to pick up your daughter and get stuck in traffic, Glympse lets her know where you are via a real-time map that shows your location, progress, and estimated arrival time. Glympse sharing is time limited so you can let a client see your location only for the half-hour before your appointed meeting time, say, but not the rest of the day. [Paragraph added to provide more detail about what Glympse does.]

Glympse on a BMW

Glympse on a BMW

The service relies on the GPS and other location capabilities of mobile phones. In some cases, Glympse is able to make use of a vehicle’s on-board GPS and other sensors to provide more precise locations and conserve a mobile phone’s battery.

The Series C funding round, joined by “unnamed strategic investors” as well as prior Glympse backers Ignition Partners, Menlo Ventures, and Naya Ventures, follows a nearly $8 million raise in 2011.

The funding will allow the company to work on more and deeper partnerships, Trussel says. The 21-person company also plans to hire nearly that many new employees again by the end of 2014.

Glympse has landed other significant partnerships, too. It is integrated with messaging applications from Blackberry, Samsung, and Verizon; wearable devices from Samsung and Pebble; navigation systems from Garmin and Navigon; and the Gogo inflight wireless service.

It’s the partnerships that Trussel sees driving the company’s growth and revenue over the long term. While individual consumer downloads of the Glympse app are “healthy and growing,” the app is and “will continue to be free for the foreseeable future,” Trussel says, which is to say, not a major source of revenue for the company. The company has tens of millions of users, he adds.

Partner deals not only provide revenue, they also allow Glympse to take advantage of the larger distribution networks of its partners, spreading the app farther and wider.

That will be increasingly important as location-sharing features are incorporated into more devices, most recently as a built-in feature of Apple iOS 8. Trussel says the location-sharing landscape has been crowded since Glympse debuted in 2009.

Trussel

Trussel

“There was Loopt, Foursquare, Gowalla, and a hundred startups doing various things in location,” he says. “And then big players came along. Google came in with Latitude. Apple came in with Find my Friends. Microsoft came in with [We're In]. I don’t want to say we’re numb to it, but we’re used to it being out there. We’ve survived very well and actually grown with all these competitors coming in. They’ve increased the awareness.”

Trussel says Glympse has distinguished itself through its flexibility.

“We offer a pretty unique spot in the ecosystem where we’re platform agnostic,” he says. “For something like location sharing, I think that’s really going to be the key.”

Glympse allows users to share their current whereabouts with friends, family, co-workers—anyone they choose—for a fixed amount of time. If you’re on your way to pick up your daughter and get stuck in traffic, Glympse lets her know where you are via a real-time map that shows your location, progress, and estimated arrival time. Glympse sharing is time limited so you can let a client see your location only for the half-hour before your appointed meeting time, say, but not the rest of the day.

The service relies on the GPS and other location capabilities of mobile phones.

Benjamin Romano is editor of Xconomy Seattle. Email him at bromano [at] xconomy.com. Follow @bromano

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