Placed Snags $3.4M in Funding To Bring Location Analytics to Developers

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Location analytics startup Placed emerged from a 13-month stealth period yesterday, announcing the closure of $3.4 million in Series A funding as well the release of a new product for mobile app developers. Placed for Developers is a free SDK that enables developers of location-aware apps to analyze the real-world context in which their products are being used.

Unlike on the web, where a user’s context is largely static and generally trivial to a their behavior, the mobile environment is deeply influenced by users’ real-world surroundings. Placed sends developers a daily analytics report outlining everything from the average speed at which a user is moving, to the types of locations around which users tend to open, close, or interact with their application.

Developers of location-aware apps are collecting huge amounts of location data, but it’s largely meaningless; they are essentially handed a massive, unsolved puzzle. Placed CEO David Shim told Street Fight that the company has amassed over 850 million data points with a handful of beta testers in less than a year.

“Location has a lot of traits; it’s very noisy,” says Shim, who worked with web analytics firm Quantcast before starting Placed. “For a specific device, you get GPS, WiFi, cell triangulation, and a lot of the times, the location is unclear. However, those data points might point to what a user is doing.”

Consider the product decisions for an app that is used mostly on-the-go as opposed to one which is used while a user is still: at a very basic level, the interface needs to be designed so that it is easy to use while walking (bigger buttons, simpler interface etc.)

There is likely a much larger opportunity for Placed as a tool for biz dev. In a mobile environment, advertisers care less about virtual habit (e.g. did the user come to my app after reading the news) and more about physical context (e.g. is the user around my store.) ThinkNear CEO Eli Portnoy spelled out the difference in a recent guest post on Street Fight: “The time we spend on our phone and what we do is more contextually driven by the location we are in than the trail of websites and apps we visit. So trying to understand my commerce disposition via a cookie is likely much more futile on mobile.”

The bottom line is that hyperlocal targeting is not there yet. Between privacy concerns and implementation issues, the classic example of a user getting pinged with a deal for a half-off a coffee when they walk past a Starbucks is still more a hypothetical than it is a reality.

Shim imagines a developer or company being able to tell a brand like McDonalds that 9 percent of its application opens occur within 100 yards of one of their locations: “If people have a high affinity for being near a McDonalds, you can monetize that data,” says Shim.

Placed has found an interesting nook between tradition mobile analytics services like Flurry, which do not consider physical context, and location analytics firms like PlaceIQ that are aggregating big location datasets for marketers. With mobile app revenue set to explode over the next four years, a developer facing services like Placed could take off.

Shim says that as company expands, it plans to build a freemium product which, provides a baseline against which, developers can measure they’re own results.

Steven Jacobs is an associate editor at Street Fight.