Sense360 emerges from stealth, wants to make your smart phone even smarter

by Patrick Hechinger
June 23, 2015

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The amount of accessible information your cell phone contains about your daily life would make George Orwell turn over in his grave. But what if this omnipresent technological-eye was used to make your life more convenient?

Sense360, a new Culver City-based startup, came out of stealth today to unleash your phone’s untapped resources. From the gyroscope to the accelerometer to the light sensor, Sense360 gathers information about where you are and what you’re doing in order to best guide your day-to-day life.

“I wanted to add all these new sensors to create a deeper story of what the customer is doing and what is around them,” founder Eli Portnoy said. “I wanted to build something not only to create better targeted ads but also create a better experience for consumers.”

The 10 sensors on the average smartphone usually create an abundance of data that app developers can’t sift through. By aggregating the readings from all 10 sensors and simplifying the information, Sense360 can deliver extremely intelligent messages based on your movements and location.

For example, Sense360 may sense when you are driving into a gas station and suggest what credit card to use to receive the most points. In actuality, it uses the gyroscope and accelerometer sensors to guarantee that you’ve driven there and are not just walking by. By combining the data sources Portnoy hopes to eliminate the errors that have plagued mobile ad tech.

Building on a marketing past

Portnoy arrived in LA 4.5 years ago with an entrepreneurial background, a business degree, and a brief stint at Amazon. His most recent startup, Thinknear, inspired him to dive deeper into the world of targeted mobile ads.

“I noticed that apps weren’t taking advantage of these sensors. Why weren’t the apps getting smarter as phones got smarter?” Portnoy said. “We went out and created a platform that eliminates the complexity for the developers and makes it easy for them to say ‘I want to know when any of my users are doing X,Y, or Z.’ Then they can basically build any experience on top of that that they want.”

A Hacker's Dream

A month ago Portnoy decided to have a mini-Hackathon to test his unlaunched product. He sent invites to 15 of his friends to come to their small office and hoped to receive a little feedback. The next time he checked the invite, 100 people had registered and he was forced to close registration and create a waiting list.

Unsurprisingly, the aggregated information gathered by Sense360 is a dream IP for a hackathon.

One contestant used Sense360 to create a “FitBit” for life — a product that tracked and set goals for how much time you spend at home, the office, the gym, etc.

Another contestant created a platform that determined how smooth of a driver you were.

A third contestant created a personal reminder system that allowed you to notify yourself in locations or during actions. It could remind you to text your wife as soon as it sensed you leaving work or turned on a playlist as soon as you entered the gym.

The possibilities appeared endless. Needless to say, the seven-person office in Culver City was stunned.

“There’s so much excitement about tech and the community in Los Angeles, it's incredible,” Portnoy said. “You compare that to the jaded nature of Silicon Valley where they just say ‘great, another Hackathon.’ Here, there is excitement about the emergence of the tech community.”

After a $2.75 million seed round in October, Portnoy feels comfortable with where the product is at as it heads to the market. He still wants to add over 100 features to the product before seeking another round of funding next year.

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