Come find me

Can another company deliver on the promise of Foursquare?

Foursquare may be struggling, but that doesn’t mean others aren’t jostling to take its place. A new app, Connect, just raised a $10.3 million Series A, in a round including Marc Benioff, to give it a shot. It calls itself a “living address book.” It’s a digital address book that syncs all your social contacts together, but it’s also a new take on Foursquare’s check-in feature.

The app shows you a map of your city with little face bubbles telling you where your friends are hanging out. There’s a key difference though. Unlike Foursquare, which requires people to “check-in”, Connect extracts data from people’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Foursquare feeds to tell you where they’re located. The black circles represent their main city, pulled from their social profile information, and the red circles represent where a person has recently posted they are. For example, if you post a status about “Having a great time at Dolores Park,” Connect will place you at Dolores Park in the Mission neighborhood of San Francisco. When Facebook latently notes your location for its “friends nearby” feature, Connect will pull that too.

Screenshots from Connect app
Screenshots from Connect app

The automatic information drawing removes the friction of the check-in to make your friends’ location data more readily available. You receive notifications when an out-of-town friend is visiting your city. The lead investor in Connect, Brad Bao from Kinzon Capital, told me he invested in the app because it solves a connection problem people didn’t necessarily know they had. “In a way, its similar to Uber before Uber existed,” Bao said. “There’s no way to [latently] inform my friends where I’m at.”

CEO Ryan Allis told me he spent a year and a half building the technology. We already had our surge in geolocation networking in 2011-2012. With Foursquare’s pivot, it appears the heyday might be over. But Connect’s premise intrigued me enough to try it. I liked Facebook’s “friends nearby” feature, despite its creepy vibe. It has almost resulted in me getting together with a friend I wouldn’t otherwise…such promise. Why not expand that to other networks?

But the vision of Connect seems to be a little behind the execution. On my map, there weren’t many friends in San Francisco, despite the fact that Facebook’s app clearly told me no less than three friends were all in my vicinity. That lapse in communication between the apps may be the result of some Facebook’s users privacy settings.

One of the friends the Connect app did show as being in San Francisco isn’t actually here. I texted her to double-check, and sure enough, she’s back in Boston (where she lives full time).

The promise of Foursquare — to know where your friends were so you could connect serendipitously — was so appealing, but technologically we may just not be there yet.