It’s been 13 years since Mitch Thrower helped launch The Active Network, an online community and application technology provider for the active lifestyle/sports market. Now he’s back with Bump.com, a reverse communications platform that “allows consumers and companies to communicate with people and vehicles via unique identifiers.”
Thrower’s new company so far has raised $1 million in seed funding, from Digimedia, Tal Kerret (chairman of Oberon Media), Christophe Vandaele (chairman of Vandaele Holdings), Charlie Baker (partner with DLA Piper), Bill Hein (former SVP at EMI) and Bob Ezrin (music producer). It also is in talks to raise a $6 million Series B round and has made an acquisition in the imaging technology space.
“Bump is like AAA meets Facebook meets communications infrastructure,” Thrower says. “Kind of like a national, social-networked 1-800-How’s-My-Driving?”
Here’s how Bump will work, once launched in July: Imagine you’re driving down the street and get cut off by some jackass in a Hummer. You can open your BumpMe app on the iPhone, and type in the Hummer’s license plate (so long as you’re going less than 5mph). Or you can automatically call Bump’s voice service and recite the plate number. Or you may even be able to take a photo of the car with your device, and Bump will figure out the plate number (via technology from the aforementioned acquisition).
You information will be entered into a giant Bump database, in which every license plate has a profile. Those who register with Bump can “claim” their license plates and read information posted about themselves. This could include, for example, coupons from a fast-food chain whose drive-thru you recently visited. Or from a store you recently parked near.
The primary revenue model is twofold: First, Bump plans to offer “Advantage” memberships, which are similar to AAA memberships — and to Active Network Advantage memberships — albeit with social networking functionality and the option of a free ride home after your car gets towed. The company also may offer information services to groups like government agencies, taxi cab operators and car clubs. It already has struck partnerships with a major car rental chain and plans to distribute information to tow truck operators natonwide.
“We have a paid taxi, fleet or car rental company enterprise solution to monitor all their cars, and there is also a basic program available for free,” Thrower explains. “For car rentals, the smartphone rental-safety app we have developed integrates with their car rental process and helps protect them and their consumers renting vehicles.”
I did ask Thrower if Bump users should be worried that their “negative” information — imagine you’re the Hummer driver — could be used to justify penalties by insurance or rental car companies. He said that it would not happen, because individuals can control their privacy settings.
Thrower also says that while Bump plans to be acquisitive, it should not need the $275 million or so raised by The Active Network. Instead, it expects to raise a total of between $25 million and $50 million.