Boston-based startup uLocate Communications just raised $11 million, led by VC firm Venrock. The startup powers Helio's Buddy Beacon and the mobile version of MapQuest. But most of that money is going to go into ULocate's new mobile Where platform, which lets companies develop location-based applications once using regular Web programming languages and then it deals with translating the app to all the different cell phone carriers and mobile phones out there.
Walt Doyle, uLocate's CEO, came to my Disruptors roundtable in Boston earlier this month. He showed me a "Dig to China" app on Where (photographed above, with Walt on the left and me holding the phone) that shows on a map where you would end up if you dug a hole straight through the earth. From Boston, you'd end up in the Pacific Ocean, slightly southeast of Australia. Other Where apps include one for local weather, roadside assistance, a GPS Twitter, a Zillow home finder, an Eventful event locator, a pub finder, winery finder, and a directory of the "world's largest" tourist attractions. Results are all based on where you are, obviously.
For $3 a month, consumers can gain access to all the Where apps on their cell phones (today only on Sprint, but soon on other carriers thanks to this new cash infusion). A mobile location-based app on Where can be built in a matter of days, and be up on cell phones without the need to cut a separate agreement with cell phone operators, since Where is already cutting those deals to become an "on-deck" app.
We've all heard the promise of location-based apps, but there aren't many great ones out there. Anything that makes it easier to create and deploy such applications is worth taking a look at.