This article was published on March 30, 2010

SimpleGeo Comes Out of Beta, Interview with Co-Founder Matt Galligan

SimpleGeo Comes Out of Beta, Interview with Co-Founder Matt Galligan
Chad Catacchio
Story by

Chad Catacchio

Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in th Chad Catacchio is a contributor writing on a variety of topics in tech. He has held management positions at a number of tech companies in the US and China. Check out his personal blog to connect with him or follow him on Twitter (if you dare).

SimpleGeo, which hopes to become the single access point of geo data for app developers, comes out of beta today at the O’Reilly conference Where 2.0 (which we’re also attending). We had a chance to talk with with SimpleGeo’s co-founder, Matt Galligan about the launch and about how the geolocation space is heating up.

Now that it’s out of beta testing, SimpleGeo’s API will be freely available to all developers starting today. The free limit on API calls is one million calls per month. Galligan told us that SimpleGeo will list pricing on their website for users that use more than 1 million calls.

Galligan stressed that how a developer uses their API calls can be drastically different. For example, one app might make just one call to the API every time it launches to sync the user’s location, while another app – for instance, one that is running in the background – may be constantly calling the service, so how fast a developer uses those 1 million calls will range widely. He mentioned Stickybits as an example of a service that is using the beta and that has used a low bandwidth of calls using SimpleGeo’s API during the beta phase.

Another interesting addition to the launch will be a back-end dashboard for developers. Galligan said the dashboard will be live today. They are also building data visualization (on a map) of API/app usage that will be available inside the dashboard as well. This could be a very powerful tool for developers, and again, it’s impressive that SimpleGeo plans to bundle this for free.

When asked about who has been using the beta service, Galligan said that they’ve had 4,000 developers sign up, but that they aren’t highlighting anyone as of yet. He said that they’ll have  a much better idea of who is using the service and how in 4-6 weeks, and at that point may start highlighting certain developers.

Funding and new staff

SimpleGeo raised $1.5 million at the end of November 2009 from a slew of high profile investors (they previously had only raised around $150,000) and last week announced that they were doubling staff, including hiring Andrew Mager (formally of CNET/CBS and most recently Ning) to handle community / developer relations. Galligan said that they plan to continue to build out “complex visualization data” both for developer use and eventually as something everyone will have access to – quite possibly as an extension of what they did with for SXSW. (we’ve embedded their visualization video of SXSW location data at the end of the post).

Galligan also mentioned that SimpleGeo is working on ways in which developers can frame their location apps around specific areas such as neighborhoods and other non-standard geographical boundaries.

Location Data

We discussed with Galligan at length about how location data is evolving. First of all, when asked how hard it has been to get people to understand what they were doing, he said about 60% understand (mainly developers that have had to deal with multiple location data sets in the past) and the other 40% are still “completely oblivious to how difficult [what SimpleGeo does] is,” but that, “the importance of geo data will rise very soon.”

For example, we pointed out that in the SXSW hotspot video below, geo-tagged tweets were not included. Galligan said that, yes, very few users are geo-tagging their tweets, probably because, “Users have too many hoops to jump through before they can geo-tag. Twitter hasn’t done a good job of letting people know how to manage that.”

On the other hand, Galligan is excited about their relationship with Skyhook Wireless, the service that uses WiFi hotspots (as well as GPS, and cell tower triangulation) to determine the location of mobile devices. For example, right now SimpleGeo is the only way to access Skyhook’s SpotRank (Brady Forrest has a nice write up on this). According to Galligan, “We’re really excited to work with them in any way we can. We fullfil too very fundamental parts of location – they get the location and we can do something with it. SpotRank right now is the most important data set in location”. Galligan hinted in our interview that SimpleGeo’s relationship with Skyhook will continue to evolve.

We asked Galligan if business data was becoming a commodity as sites such as Yelp! continue to provide more detailed data about businesses for free, and whether the large business data providers – which charge very high rates for access to their data sets – are no longer going to be able to control this segment. Galligan responded that, “I think it’s great if local business data is more accessible. We’re certainly hoping to have a hand in making this happen.” In other words, SimpleGeo wants to help make business data freely available for anyone to use, which would be a gigantic shift in how location/business/directory/ratings apps could be built on the cheap.

We also asked Galligan about how SimpleGeo plans to serve and work with the non-profit and government sectors. He said that, “We are definately going out and consuming government data. However, most government data is a mess, and we want to help clean up that mess. Our tools make it a lot easier to do a lot of this stuff.” Galligan also noted that, “We are going to be giving access to education and non-profits, [especially] if it’s research based. [However], we would like a share of that data.” Galligan said that exactly how they will work with non-profits and education has yet to be determined.

“We’re standing alone.”

Finally, we asked Galligan about SimpleGeo’s place in the industry right now. We noted that since GeoAPI was acquired by Twitter (GeoAPI was SimpleGeo’s main competitor) no one else has seemingly stepped in to take on SimpleGeo. Galligan agreed: “We’re standing alone.”

Correction: We earlier reported that GeoAPI’s rate limit was 20K per month – it actually is 20K per day, for a 600K free calls per month. Also, GeoAPI offers extra capacity of $3 per incremental daily 100K hits.

Get the TNW newsletter

Get the most important tech news in your inbox each week.