Here’s A Glympse Into The Future, Circa 2016

July 6th, 2016

I sit nervously at the corner table waiting for her to arrive.  It is 6:15pm on a rainy Tuesday evening in Seattle, WA

“Oh man, what if she bails on me?”  What would I tell the guys?”

I am nervous because this is an extremely exciting night –  it’s my first date with Sarah, a beautiful young woman I met a few weeks ago.

This is my big chance.

If she is late, what does that mean?”  My mind is racing.  “Should I text her to find out where she is?  Or would that just be annoying”

So many thoughts are running through my head it’s about ready to burst.  Then I remember hearing traffic is horrible so I figure it might be a while before she gets here.

“… but wait, I don’t think she’s driving on any major freeways… Nick, pull it together.  You have more nervous energy than Secretariat did at the gate before winning the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown in 1973.”

Buzz.  Up pops a message on my phone.  “Sarah says: On my way. I may be late, traffic…  Click for a Glympse of my location”.   Relieved, I now see she is indeed on the 520 bridge crossing Lake Washington, currently traveling at 10 mph and her estimated time of arrival is 6:35pm.  I am then able to watch her as she approaches the restaurant.  She actually arrives around 6:30pm and as a matter of fact we have a great dinner.

 “The ‘hey, where are you?’ question happens quite often each day.  And that’s where we saw the real opportunity.  If we can make it easier to share location, more rich, more dynamic, make it simple without privacy concerns… almost a reflex in peoples lives, that’s where we want to be.” –  Bryan Trussel, Glympse CEO. (Full interview here)

Earlier that afternoon I decided to go hiking up at Snow Lake, a cherished Seattle day hike in the North Cascades.  This is a nice 3 mile jaunt up and over a large crest and then down into the most extraordinary scenery you could find within one hour of a metropolitan city.  Turquoise blue water, evergreen trees, snowy patches on the high cresting rocks and blue skies all around make this one of my favorite getaways.

I have been up there many times before but today an eerie feeling fell over me as I was hiking around.  Luckily I turned Glympse on before I left my car and sent it out to a few hikers around the area as a safety precaution so I didn’t get lost, or worse.  As fate would have it, the former got the best of me and I found myself lost in the wilderness.  Frantically, I looked around – all 360 degrees seemed unfamiliar – and I started to wonder if this was really the end.

“Great, now what am I going to do?” 

I quickly sent out an SOS from my Glympse application, which goes out to all who are currently tracking my whereabouts.  Like a smoke signal of an earlier era the SOS message is a high level alert that I am currently in trouble.  With a view of my Glympse, a pair of hikers located me, gave me some water and together we walked down the mountain to our cars.  Saved by Glympse.

“The ‘i’m late for the meeting, here’s my location’ case might be the entry point, but then people will start using Glympse more and more deeply in their life.”  –  Bryan Trussel, Glympse CEO. (Full interview here)

You think that’s crazy?  Here is an even wilder situation that happened earlier in the morning.  I was walking to a meeting downtown when I decided to take a Glympse of the city of Seattle at 8:05 am.  I pulled out my iPhone 10 and with one finger swipe I was able to see thousands of little dots moving about the city.  Those dots were actual people, moving in real-time all around me.  Double tapping the map zoomed me in on one city block, illumining people choosing to reveal their exact location and identity to me and other Glympse users.

I juxtaposed all the people on the highlighted block with my networks and found out three close colleagues and one old high school friend were within 300 yards from me.

Dude, this is cool.

Viewing this block using Glympse helped me more effectively navigate my next 10 minutes.  I shook hands with one colleague, booked a much needed follow-up meeting with another and surprised an old friend with a friendly “long time, no see”.  Ah yes, technology.  What a day.

“In terms of privacy, we do several things, A) you never share your location until you say go, B) you set the timeline so it stops when you want it to, automatically, C) we put ‘stop broadcasting’ very prominently in the UI, and you can delete any Glympse at any time, it disappears from your phone as well as off our servers.” –  Bryan Trussel, Glympse CEO.  (Full interview here)

Present Day

For the record, the above scenario will indeed be normal behavior by the year 2016.  Just you watch.

Much has been documented about the location tracking mobile application Glympse.  It allows you to purposely share your location and lets people see and track your whereabouts at any moment.  And it’s as simple as sending a text (Robert Scoble does a great overview here).

“Uh, why would I do that?” is the normal response from anyone I talk to about Glympse.  They also said that about putting their credit cards on the internet 15 years ago and I think we all know how that turned out.

I think people will ease into it, just like e-commerce.  Remember back in 1996, no one wanted to place their credit card online. over time eBay, Amazon and others developed a positive reputation for security.  And people warmed up to putting their card online.  We want to be this brand, “this is a Glympse enabled app” so people will trust it. –  Bryan Trussel, Glympse CEO. (Full interview here)

To be honest, I too was initially skeptical but after a rather interesting conversation recently with Glympse CEO Bryan Trussel I am now convinced otherwise.  Once you get past the “I would never share my location” gut reaction, you start to grasp the idea and realize this is the future showing itself to you.  The image to the right is a Glympse Bryan sent as he traveled to our meeting.  I have to say it was pretty amazing watching him get closer and closer to me and then see him walk in the door right on time.

By no exception Bryan is a visionary:

Take from the beginning of time, from the caveman going out and slaughtering the mammoth (family members wondering where they are), from the ship going out on the horizon and people on the shore wondering “where’s the ship”  to the pony express riding the horse, to the telegraph, to now a telephone, now everything is real-time… so if you fast forward accounting for advances in technology… you see a pattern of something people have done since the beginning of time – wondering about someone’s location and whereabouts.  And we will have this need 50 years in the future, If you can take that and make it easier, more rich and simple… we think it’s a good place to be. –  Bryan Trussel, Glympse CEO. (Full interview here)

Available on many different mobile devices, eclipsing one million users and recently closing a $7.5 million Series B round of financing, The Redmond based Glympse seems to have positioned itself at the forefront of the next major trend in mobile space – location sharing applications.

What makes Glympse so intriguing is the practical/utility application as opposed to a game mechanic approach.  It’s tough to argue which is better, but the power of Glympse is quite obvious.  Those three uses I described in the year 2016 help illustrate why the need to locate is a human desire and why sharing our location with people will be a second nature behavior.  It’s not scary, it’s useful.  I believe we could be doing those things now, we just need more people using Glympse.   So go and get it.  It might just save your life.

Do we really have to wait 5 years for such a great day?

Interview With Glympse Visionary CEO Bryan Trussel

Much has been documented on the features of Glympse, so I wanted to chat a bit deeper with Bryan Trussel, Co-founder and CEO, and talk some about where we are going in terms of location technologies.  It was an very interesting conversation and below is a full transcript of the interview.

Location is not a game, it’s a utility.  Elaborate on that statement…

You speak in terms of forward thinking, it is interesting… the elements in our initial meetings and slide decks were hilarious, it was stuff like ‘we think smart phones were going to become more prevalent, we think social networks up and coming’… if you look at the time when we were doing that, there weren’t many smartphones out in the market… people questioned our assumptions.

The thing is people have been sharing location – 90’s and today – just not digitally..  analog.  People share text or phone call.  That happens 10’s of millions of times a day.  Now with location today, you use location in games and searches, etc… but the “hey, where are you?” question happens quite often each day.  And that’s where we saw the real opportunity.  Hey If we can make it easier to share location, more rich, more dynamic, make it simple without privacy concerns… almost a reflex in peoples lives, that’s where we want to be. we are 10% there but happy with where we are today.

We make the claim, like meeting with you today,  I could text or call a few times to let you know where I am currently… or I could just share a Glympse at the beginning and then not worry about and you can see for yourself.  We will be really happy when people everywhere are sending Glympses everyday like a normal action, like a text.

Why is location important?

Take from the beginning of time, from the caveman going out and slaughtering the mammoth (family members wondering where they are), from the ship going out on the horizon and people on the shore wondering “where’s the ship”  to the pony express riding the horse, to the telegraph, to now a telephone, now everything is real-time… so if you fast forward accounting for advances in technology… you see a pattern of something people have done since the beginning of time – wondering about someone’s location and whereabouts.  And we will have this need 50 years in the future, If you can take that and make it easier, more rich and simple… we think it’s a good place to be.

Now that’s not to say there aren’t going to be a lot of other ways to use location in lives, but there was this thought around that there was only one or two player in location space, no… hundreds and thousands of ways with many different things associated with it.

So you would view it as a splintering of the category?

Yes, just like the Internet.  What’s the power of the Internet,  There’s thousands of categories… ecommerce, social, information.  When the Internet came along, borders were broken down the big thing was connecting someone here with someone in Belarus.  Location was irrelevant.  But I think when we were doing that we forgot, it’s more relevant right here.  Your daily life is in the real world.  The people you shake hands with, the kids you come home to… now we can take all the things where location matters.

Now we are seeing the emergence of local, hyper local… The power now seems to be “on this block”

Yeah, it’s like the opposite as before.  take search as an example…. when the Internet was in it’s infancy.  I can search movies in Tokyo, but is that really relevant to me?  But now, geez, there is so much information.. now things like twitter, flash mobs, social networks, coupons, things I can touch right now.   That’s just starting to take off.

Where do you see this space going?  There is an open path for sure.

So it’s kind of foggy.  But here’s where i think it’s going… I make the analogy to the .com era… it was new and nascent, but now the Internet is part of every company, everyone has a .com… it’s just part of the company.  So will location, it will be infused in everything.  Now where you look up a movie theater app, restaurant reviews, coupon, interact with people.. they all have it,  it will transcend most things.  You will have this class of things location will just sit on top of.

Do you think there will be one major player providing location?

Stuff will move up the stack.. two years ago you could have had a company could have had cool GPS chips, then you had companies build up location databases, then you had an API for developers to find location information, now you have companies providing automatic geofencing, you now have I think we’ll just have innovation higher and higher… it’s so easy to do now.  If I can get that, what service can I lay on top of that.  The innovation will just be higher and higher up the stack.

Outside of the “I’m late for the meeting” scenario, walk me through your dream use case.

That might be peoples entry point, then they start to use it more and more deeply in their life.  Probably one of the most common scenarios has gone from “I’m late” to I’m on my way”.  We just put out a new releases where you can put a little icon on your home screen, you can make one like “going home” and you just touch it and then go.  That replaces the annoying questions such as “have you left yet? Have you left yet?  Yes I almost have, no I am stuck in traffic”   People use it when they caravan the kids to soccer.  Where we see it going, where we will be happy, is where people use it in all the scenarios where they could use it.

Take a look at text messaging.  Go back to your text messages, probably 10% involve your location… We see it going from “i’m late to “I’m on my way” so people just do it for fun, I’m going on a run, going out shopping.  Some guy sent one out last week where he was moving out over a field, then he goes over a river, then he starts running in circles… turns out he was hang gliding!  He sent a Glympse out for people to watch his hang gliding.

If we can succeed in our vision, where people use it all the time, making  if you fast forward a few years this premise of people being confused with where people are goes out the window.

Privacy, where do you sit on that issue?

It kind of goes in waves. 80% of the people just want to know that they are in control.  We do several things, A) you never share your location until you say go, B) you set the timeline so it stops when you want it to, automatically, C) we put ‘stop broadcasting’ very prominently in the UI, and you can delete any Glympse at any time, it disappears from your phone as well as off our servers.

In fact, we have a policy to delete any from our servers after 48 hours anyway.  So, I think people will ease into it, just like e-commerce.  Remember back in 1996, no one wanted to place their credit cards online.. over time eBay, Amazon and others developed a positive reputation for security.  And people warmed up to putting their card online.  We want to be this brand, “this is a Glympse enabled app” so people will trust it.

You can share as broadly or as narrow as you want.. to Facebook, twitter, or just one person.

In terms of privacy, we believe in baking it into the product, very obvious and user controlled. Rather than making people read 50 page privacy statements.  It’s all right there.

We built an much more complex location platform initially, it was too complicated, so we actually threw the majority of that away and focused on the utility of it.  The simple action of sharing your location with someone.

So do people have to have the app to receive a Glympse

Nope, people can view any Glympse through a mobile web interface.  What we really want is someone sending a Glympse to anyone in the world, that someone receiving it, “oh, that’s cool” and then they look further.. and put it on their phone and then start using it.  We don’t have a marketing budget… it’s how we have accrued million users through that viral technique.  It’s worked pretty well for us.

16 Years at Microsoft, describe your journey and what pulled you away?

I was at Microsoft in the mid 90’s, it was very fun, challenging, great time to grow up in the software business.  I started in the windows department, then went into games and X-box for a while.  But I always wanted to go and try my own thing and I was really interested in the consumer side.  Even then, I always had the “itch”… it’s one thing to succeed at Microsoft, it’s another to be successful on your own, without millions of dollars and the big name behind you.  I called up some friends in the same situation, we were excited about mobile, about location, and we determined to go do something in the consumer space.

It’s a shame, everybody can’t jump into the entrepreneurial world even for a year or two..  Even if you fail, you will learn so much more.. I am more effective, more driven.  You can’t study from the sidelines..

Do you feel some just don’t have the itch

Yes, i do…. everybody likes and wants a challenge, the adrenaline rush… even in a big company… with that said, you have to put everything into it to succeed and some might not want to do that in their life.  If you are not driven to go make it happen, you are probably not an entrepreneur…

What is the most important characteristic of a successful CEO

THE?  Probably the ability to rally people around a vision.  Which means, A) you have a vision, B) you believe in it, C) it has to be a vision a bit off kilter, because if 5,000 others have the same vision you will get beat.  So it has to be enough off mainstream that you have an advantage, one that makes sense… high risk, high reward.

What advice would you give young entrepreneurs out there who are just starting out.

If you can jump in to the entrepreneurial space early in life, do it.  If you can surround yourself with the people who have done it,  do it.  I can’t image a scenario where even if you don’t succeed, whatever it is you do, that experience will be beneficial.  I wish I would have done it earlier.

Internally, the Microsoft experience was an advantage since we knew how to build and roll out a software.  But externally, when talking to investors, it was a liability would look and say “oh, how long were you at Microsoft?”  They would question if we really were entrepreneurs.

Initially, we had to bootstrap our company, prototype our product and show we could get traction.  Then we were able to show that we could built what we say we can build.  Then we took that to some angels, got some money, then took the product to VC’s.  It was a lot easier once we got something in the market.

So you plan on expanding the team?

Yes, that is the main reason for the latest funding round, we will be expanding the development team.  We got a lot of opportunities in front of us.. That is the cool thing about this area, Seattle, there is a lot of smart, entrepreneurial minded technical people here.  It’s a great place for us to draw upon for talent.