Thursday, April 28, 2011
Interview with Rich Rygg, HipGeo
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
Earlier this month, Fullerton-based HipGeo (www.hipgeo.com) announced a $500,000 funding round from Morado Venture Partners, the seed fund of ex-Yahoo executives Ash Patel and Michael Marquez, eHarmony's Galen Buckwalter, and San Diego angel investor Bob Bingham. Rich Rygg is a co-founder of the company, who explains to us what exactly HipGeo is, and what they're hoping to do.
Explain what HipGeo does?
Rich Rygg: We are creating a toolset, which allows users to record their day. They can keep it private, or public, or share it with a group of individuals. Basically, it records your day, allows you to share it, and also to communicate.
When you say "records your day", what do you mean?
Rich Rygg: Our software has the ability to record every geolocation you go to. It's GPS tracking, and what that allows you to do is for you to receive a report, telling you here is every location you've visited, here are all the routes you've taken, this is how long you've spent at any location. It also gives you the ability to take photos, make comments, and eventually, take in video and audio comments. You'are also able to take all those, and share it directly with anyone.
How did the company come about?
Rich Rygg: Scott Daniel, Jeff Kunzelman, and myself met some 15 years ago, when we all worked for Geocities. I had acquired a company for Geocities that Scott Daniel and Jeff Kunzelman, my co-founders had created, Futuretouch. So, we've known each other for awhile. I sat down with Scott and Jeff with an idea that we created, the Mint.com for geolocation. It does what Mint.com did for finance, for geolocation. If someone shared all of the places they go, what value could we return to them? And, in terms of analysis of that data, what is meaningful and interesting to them? We pivioted a little bit from that original idea, and have created a toolset, including an application, a back end server, and an API.
Who would use that data and API?
Rich Rygg: The API, essentially, allows a developer to take and collect data, and throw that into our service, and have that data come back in a meaningful way. Our algorithm takes that data, parses that into locations, and travels. For example, someone might be able to use what we've created to create a game. You might also use it to create another application. We think you could create applications for all sorts of things, like applications related to travel, or applications related to traffic. We're providing a very solid platform, which includes your full social graph, connections to the Facebook and twitters of the world, and provides a great toolset for people to tap into.
There's been a lot of concern lately about tracking of people's location. How does that affect what you're doing?
Rich Rygg: What differentiates us from other location services, is we enable users to create private places. You can create a place, and keep it completely private to yourself. You can make your information private to a limited number of friends, or make it public. You can even keep everything completely private, if you wanted to. All of the travels you've taken and recorded, would be accessible to no one but yourself. We realize privacy is a big issue, so we are flexible about making that data private or public.
Why would people want to use the service for?
Rich Rygg: We envision a number of layers and alerts that people can sign up for. Alerts can come in three categories. There are personal alerts, information alerts, and the third is offer alerts. By using the service, you can use geofencing so that every time you leave work, you could provide a notice for people who have signed up for those alerts that you've left work. That can be very valuable in terms of communicating if you've left or arrived somewhere. For example, that might let people know how close you are to arriving at a meeting. Or, you can see that your daughter has made it to school. That alert can also pop up as a text message to your phone, so you know your daughter is at school. Information alerts could be as simple as signing up for alerts so that every time you arrive in a new city, we can provide something interesting about the area. For offer alerts, we can provide you information about deals from things like Groupon. So, when there are offers from Groupon, LivingSocial, or any of the clones, we can let people see all of those offers and if they want them, if those offesr are very close to where you work, near your home, or any route you travel. We can bring those offers to their attention.
Finally, with this funding, what's your next goal?
Rich Rygg: We're completing the team on the technical side. We've brought in two engineers, and are looking for another one. That brings our development staff up to five people, plus some engineers in India. We'll be finishing off our alpha and beta of our technology, and launching and driving some users and validation, then it will be off to the Round A funding.
Thanks, and good luck!