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A “Facebook” for cell phones
Posted By David Shamah On May 9, 2010 @ 12:00 am In | No Comments
Israeli company MagnetU claims it’s the first social application to tell you when you’re in the vicinity of people who meet your compatibility criteria, and give you full control.
The problem with social networking, says Yaron Moradi, CEO of Israeli startup MagnetU, is that it’s too social – in the wrong way, that is.
“Most people have many general contacts, but there are few real connections,” Moradi tells ISRAEL21c. And when it comes to a meaningful relationship – personal, business, or otherwise – online bits and bytes are no substitute for real people. That’s why Moradi says he created MagnetU – so there would be a networking device that could lead us to meaningful, real-life connections.
MagnetU is a tiny, wireless invention that seeks out people who have the same likes and interests that you have. Imagine this: You’re at a trade show, searching for investors for a project. Finding the right person is usually very difficult and more often than not you’re reduced to relying on hit-or-miss attempts, hoping that luck will be on your side.
With MagnetU you’re part of a “Dynamic Mobile Human Network” with a device that “sniffs out” other MagnetU users who are interested in projects like yours. Business people looking for partners, sports fans looking for fellow fans, racquetball players looking for someone to play with and men and women seeking a relationship can all find each other. MagnetU brings them together, by ferreting out the people they really want to get to know from among the crowd.
Finding what you’re looking for
The first step is to sign up at the MagnetU website, by filling out a short questionnaire with details such as likes/dislikes, age, profession, etc. Next you connect the tiny (inch-and-a-half-square) device to your computer via a USB cable and download your profile to your MagnetU. Now you have an active device and you’re ready to hit the town.
When you are in the proximity (within a few hundred yards) of a MagnetU user who matches your profile, you receive an SMS message telling you that there’s a match (maybe even a “hot” match!) in the area. You decide what comes next – it could be a meeting, a return message, or a “no thanks.”
The messages are saved on your MagnetU, so the next time you sync your device to your PC you can see any messages that came in. Along with the message is an assessment of how close a match you are with the other MagnetU-er.
While MagnetU can hook up with social networking services like Facebook, Myspace and LinkedIn, Moradi explains that it’s really something completely different.
“There are plenty of social applications where you can get together with people you already know; this is the first one that lets you meet new people, based on compatibility criteria you set up. You find people with the same likes and dislikes as you, making MagnetU the most accurate social networking tool out there,” says Moradi, who adds that it’s also the safest.
No GPS required
“Unlike other location-based services, like Foursquare, MagnetU keeps you in control of your information. The others broadcast your location, enabling them to find you whether you want them to or not. But MagnetU doesn’t reveal your location. It’s up to you to choose whether or not to respond with a message telling them where to find you,” he explains.
Even though it’s location-based, MagnetU does not require a GPS connection – meaning that it’s compatible with nearly all phones in use since 2003; the only wireless connection it requires is Bluetooth, so it can transmit SMS messages to your phone. In fact, Moradi says that compatibility with a wide range of phones is one reason the company developed MagnetU as an independent device, as opposed to a software application.
“Because we’re not dependent on a phone’s technology, MagnetU works with the widest range of phones possible, and the vast majority of phones in use today do not have smart location-based technology,” Moradi says, adding that the device is compatible with all cell phone networks, as well.
So, if it doesn’t use GPS, how can MagnetU locate you – or others? “That’s part of our secret sauce,” Moradi says – and that sauce is patented. SMS messages are not sent via the carrier’s network – a fact, Moradi says, that never ceases to amaze carriers, who cannot figure out how the MagnetU is able to send an SMS without first contacting their central server.
Let’s start with romance
But Moradi says that the MagnetU device is about more than just communications – it’s also about fashion. “An application is an application, once you put it on your phone it tends to get lost in the crowd. The MagnetU device is a fashion item – the world’s first wearable social networking accessory,” he says.
The MagentU is being marketed to teens and young adults as a social tool to meet potential dates, but there are a multitude of potential uses for the device, and only three months since it came onto the market, the tool has enticed the interest of a range of companies.
Located in Kfar Sava, MagnetU was developed by Dr. Pinchas Ziv and Yaron Madar, both of whom have strong backgrounds in social networking, but it was Moradi, who has worked in electronics for years, who came up with the idea. Using his contacts among Far East electronics manufacturers, Madar developed a prototype based on his ideas. The product went through several incarnations until it emerged as the MagnetU device.
Initial funding came out of Moradi’s and Ziv’s pockets, along with money put up by private Israeli and Far East investors. The company, that now has 10 employees, expects to close its first round of VC funding within several months. It’s raising money to finance a rapid expansion of MagnetU distribution, especially in the Far East and South America where the company is on the verge of signing contracts with several cell phone service providers.
“Location-based social networking is a billion dollar market,” says Moradi, “and MagnetU is the biggest thing to happen to location-based social networking ever.”
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