SocialRadar is trying to give humans the power of dolphins.
That is to say, enable us to figure out who is around using a form of radar.
SocialRadar released its iPhone app today that presents real-time information about people in your social network that are nearby. It was founded by Blackboard founder and former CEO Michael Chasen with the goal of becoming a mobile-social-local app that people actually use everyday.
“There are now 1 billion smartphones in the world, which are basically location beacons, and 2 billion users on social media,” Chasen said in an interview. “But no-one has taken that information and cross-referenced it. Now we don’t find it weird that you walk into to a restaurant and have no idea who is there, or may have a friend around the corner you can’t see, but these connections will become commonplace in the next 5 years.”
SocialRadar pulls information from Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Google +. You set the “radar” range in the app and it will present a list or map view of all the people who are in that vicinity. You can see their profile information, what they have been up to recently, look at photos, and see things you have in common.
The app sorts this information into categories. If you set a radar of 1 mile, you can see the number of coworkers, friends, friends of friends, professional contacts, college pals, people from Facebook groups, etc. You can also conduct specific searches — for example, someone you know that speaks Chinese within 5 miles. There are features for setting alerts as well, such as a text anytime a college friends comes to town, and privacy controls.
“You have to give people a high degree of control over privacy,” Chasen said. “There are some people out there who don’t want anyone tracking their location and don’t want to share personal info, but I believe that is chancing. The wave is coming down the pipe from millennials, who share their location and are just not that concerned about privacy. We learned that people are willing to share their info if you give them a reason to, as long as they have control.”
The social-mobile-local trend has been around for years and seems a little played out at this point. Highlight, which was once the shining star of this movement, has faded into the background, and Foursquare has experienced its share of ups and down over the years. Path is another player in this space, along with a slew of smaller startups like Spotsetter, and of course, Apple’s FindMyFriends.
However Chasen said comparing SocialRadar to Highlight is like comparing a “bulletin board in the 1980s to Facebook.” SocialRadar is not trying to connect people with strangers or simply show them who is nearby.
He views SocialRadar as a utility, a tool for gathering “social intelligence” that can make people more aware of their surroundings, and more able to take advantage of opportunities.
“What we are doing is not dissimilar from what Google or Apple Maps did,” he said. “People didn’t carry around an atlas or a map in their pockets before, but didn’t realize they wanted a map until they had one on their smartphone. You use maps everyday, even if you are not lost, but to have additional information. People want knowledge, and what we are seeing with the beta is that people want to know and be aware of the people around them, even if they don’t act on it.”
In addition to greater awareness of who is around you, SocialRadar can also be used to plan outings with friends, meet new people with relevant interests, remember how you know somebody you encounter, and for effective networking.
Washington D.C.-based SocialRadar raised $12.75 million in June 2013 from New Enterprise Associates, along with Grotech Ventures, and Swan and Legend Ventures. Big name angels also participated, including Path cofounder Dave Morin, AOL cofounder Steve Case, Ted Leonsis, partner at General Catalyst, Kevin Colleran, and others.