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Posted: August 01, 2014

Geospace data increasingly valuable to businesses

Mapquest founder aims to connect companies with chatter aggregator

Gigi Sukin

As mass mobile access has grown ever more ubiquitous, location and time have become invaluable data points for businesses to vie for a place in the market.

Perhaps that explains Perry Evans’ most recent startup success.  The founding executive of Colorado-based companies including Mapquest, Jabber and Local Matters, launched Closely in 2011 and secured $3 million in Series A funding led by Joe Zell of Grotech Ventures in March.

“What we’ve seen over the last three to four years is that businesses can no longer rely on a simple formula for marketing,” Evans said of his platform, which helps small businesses navigate the social media landscape and connect with business providers. “You can’t just put an ad in the paper, list in the Yellow Pages, maybe a little direct mail and call it good.”

Closely — based out of the Denver-based mixed-use campus TAXI — helps businesses track marketing and messaging from their local competition with Perch, its social monitoring app for iOS and Android devices launched last year.

“Perch was created to help both sides of the equation,” Evans said of the chatter aggregator, which won the Appy Award for “Best Business App” of 2013 at South by Southwest and was called a “must-have for small businesses” by Forbes. “For the small-business owner, it’s a single platform that both helps manage their social media channels and keeps track of what the competition is doing – all with the purpose of making their own online marketing more effective.”

As of June, more than 60,000 businesses had downloaded Perch, which also recommends tech-based products and services to business owners based on data it collects from its competitors’ operations. Evans described his target audience as the average small business owner “overwhelmed” with the volume of technology to integrate into their day-to-day management.

“Smartphones present the ideal opportunity – we can fit into your life without intruding,” Evans said. “We’ve built relationships with multiple channels – Yelp, Foursquare, Instagram, etc. – and aggregate that into a simple way to keep you in-the-know. You select businesses that you want to follow and get a low-noise, high-signal view of what’s happening in the marketplace. It gives you a very personalized, live stream of your competitors.

“In many respects, we’re creating a new category.”

Closely represents just one of many geo-tech businesses based in Colorado.

“The geo-tech landscape in Colorado has enabled our evolution,” said Neal Anderson, vice president, technology development at DigitalGlobe. Founded in 1992 as WorldView Imaging Corp., DigitalGlobe — renamed in 2002 — has grown into a 1,300 person publicly traded company that procures satellites, launch vehicles, ground station equipment and processing systems.

“Most people don’t know that most of the imagery that appears in smartphone apps comes from DigitalGlobe in Longmont, Colorado,” Anderson said. “When millions of people searched through satellite imagery for the missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370, they didn’t realize it was made available by the collective skills of many Colorado companies.”

The state has long invested in systems for obtaining, managing, analyzing and displaying geospatial data.

 “Acquiring geospatial information requires organizations skilled in remote sensing and satellite construction, launch and operations, such as Ball Aerospace, Lockheed Martin and the CU Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, to name a few,” Anderson said. “Processing requires specialized software to convert massive amounts of complex data into usable information. Colorado-based companies provide some of the most commonly used software to global customers.”

“I think Colorado is a legitimate location-based technology hub,” Evans said. “Part of the reason is the labor pool available for geo-technologies and geosciences schools that have long been affiliated with mining, geology and oil/gas exploration.”

Gigi Sukin is an Associate Editor at ColoradoBiz. She can be reached at gsukin@cobizmag.com.

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