Nowy Friends offers tool for connecting with nearby contacts, but also maintaining a level of privacy

NowyFriendsA host of startups have sprung up with aims to take advantage of the device’s GPS and provide variety of location-based services. But there are also those who may want to, for example, find friends nearby but are not necessarily eager to give up their private data. Nowy Friends, a startup out of Switzerland, has recently rolled out a platform that they hope will deliver the best of both worlds, enabling users to connect with friends nearby while maintaining that level of privacy.

As opposed to GPS, Nowy Friends has decided to use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) in order to allow smartphones to communicate directly. It is a pretty simple platform at the moment, offering users the ability to see which of their friends (Facebook, that is) are in the area, as well as receive notifications with reminders for topics that they should be discussing.  With a maximum range of 50 meters, the platform requires users to be pretty close to one another in order to connect, so it would be ideal for situations like concerts, riding public transportation, or generally any time you find yourself in a large crowd.

The service remains free for now, but one of the co-founders tells me that they are exploring monetization options, like charging for the delivery of ads or enabling companies to advertise to users when they are in the area. Nowy Friends has launched apps for iOS and Android, with the latter version currently in beta, and claims 500 daily active users, with 1,000 users having installed the app.

The team behind Nowy Friends, a trio of EPFL (Swiss Federal Tech Institute in Lausanne) alumni, launched the first version of the app back in March, but did not really begin to market the service until last month. Whereas many entrepreneurs formulate an idea for a business and simply plow forward, or even pivot, these guys took a different approach. The startup says that they had a number of ideas pertaining to the interaction between people when they are in close proximity, but they could not decide on a direction. So, they took to the internet and created an online survey in March and, based on the results, decided upon their current direction.

Although they are not revealing their funding at this time, they do say that they have received an Innogrant, provided by their alma mater and doled out in amounts up to approximately $105K. With this funding in tow, the startup is planning to unveil a chat function, again using BLE technology, so that users can meet, as well as increase the scope of the service from merely notifying users about the presence of friends to sharing information like favorite music, for example.

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