January 6, 2014
CO Everywhere Raises $6M, but Adding Ben Saren Might Be More Important To the Hyper-Local App's Future

CO Everywhere, the hyper-local location services app, was revealed to have secured a monster round of funding this week from Chinese investment firm, Morningside Group. (The Globe's Scott Kirsner broke the news.) The $6M Series A round should help the company bring on more key employees, continue to better their product, and also to ramp up their marketing of the app.

As Longo said of the deal, "We're incredibly excited about the round and thrilled to have the support of Morningside. We're taking this opportunity to invest in our team and further develop our core products."

When CO Everywhere launched their app in August, the hyper-local/location-based/social-media-sharing space seemed like a good space to try to disrupt. What wowed me the most about CO Everywhere was its great map drawing function that allowed users to create the local area they wanted to search for social media feeds and area tips.

While the news of the funding is huge for the company, the addition of Ben Saren, formerly of CitySquares, who announced his move to the company in a recent post on his blog, "Your Suspect," may be the more important to the company's future than the funding round. (Not to say that the funding won't be vital, but sometimes, adding a key player is all it takes for a company to explode.)

Saren has been involved in the Boston tech/innovation community for over eighteen years, and when I last caught up with him, he was working on two projects: SureShot Labs, a “strategic marketing technology solutions firm/innovation lab," and Influential, which was trying to disrupt how American politics function.

Now, as Saren wrote in his blog, he is fulfilling his goal of heading into 2014 with "a bigger ante on the a startup I could be truly excited about (either my own or another’s) and one I could add real value to."

He also explained how he got to this point: "Through Sure Shot Labs I kept moderately busy and mostly kept off Ali’s nerves, and along the way started Influential, a nascent and hubris attempt at solving problems (as we see them) in the democratic process. With summer long gone, Sure Shot and Influential intentionally not long term career moves, I’m very excited to be joining a young and exciting Boston-based startup called CO Everywhere."

The move to CO Everywhere brings him back to his roots with location-based search that was so innovative with CitySquares. Saren co-founded the hyper-local-search startup CitySquares, which later received funding from angel investors including Mark Cuban and Jonathan Kraft, and was eventually acquired in 2010 by Backyard.

As Saren said of the hyper-local space being a huge opportunity for disruption, "Hindsight being what it is, local and location is still, in many ways, a fascinating and underserved, if not very difficult, space with many undiscovered shores and lands. And in this society, in the high-tech world, one thing is certain: adapt or die. You simply can’t get comfortable, companies and people have to always be on the edge, always be evolving."

On the move to CO Everywhere and its co-founders Tony Longo and Dan Adams, Saren seemed pumped about joining the project and ready to help the company grow:

"What Tony and Dan have done with modest success is build, with little money and in a very short period of time, a beautifully designed app with one simple value proposition: put location first. And with virtually no investment in marketing they’ve managed to attract a respectable number of users and fans in no less than 14 countries. The current use cases are novel, and the potential is extraordinary. The product, young and nascent as it is, hooked me instantly and provoked big, visionary, and very exciting ideas and discussions from the first meeting with Tony and Dan over beers one summer evening. Initially I wasn’t looking for an opportunity but one revealed itself pretty quickly and it started to represent everything I was looking for in my next career move: founders with passion and talent who know how to execute, but also who don’t pretend to have all the answers, who’ve attracted exceptional technical talent, and a venture in a space I have strong expertise in and can immediately add value to, and those intangible qualities and characteristics that are so hard to find. And as was announced a few days ago, they just closed an unlikely round for a Boston-based consumer play. The challenges are real, a few are sobering, and I couldn’t be more excited to join the team."

The attraction of CO Everywhere might have to do with similarities that Saren sees between Longo, Adams, and himself. As he concluded in his blog post,  "Most pronounced is not just their determination but it’s their chops. And that’s critical. Too many entrepreneurs have the determination, the vision, sometimes even natural leadership qualities, but they lack real skill."

"This may be their first funded tech startup that they’ve founded anyway, but you might not know that at first," Saren added. "They’re seasoned and battle-scarred – which makes them all the more authentic."

"I respect their game. They’ve anted up before, but this is their biggest ante. And I want play the game with players who are in it to win and whose games I respect."

On adding Saren, Longo said, "Ben Saren is going to be one of the key players in developing our business expansion strategy. Ben's energy and passion, in addition to his invaluable experience in this vertical, make him the final piece of a top notch team at CO Everywhere."

Dennis Keohane is the Senior Writer for VentureFizz. You can follow Dennis on Twitter (@DBKeohane) by clicking here.