Mobile

Ex-Pandemic game veteran launches Ntro social discovery app

Josh Resnick, the former president of game developer Pandemic Studios, used to work on heavy stuff like the Lord of the Rings Conquest video game. Now he’s doing apps that are light and mobile.

Resnick’s new startup, Nprogress, is launching its Ntro social discovery app today as a way for people to find others around them with common interests. A lot of dating apps do this already, but Resnick says his app does much more than the competition and fits into the category of “social discovery.” The app gets you to list the three interests they care about most. Then it finds local matches with people in the same city and sorts the matches by who is closest to you. Then it gives you a variety of ways to make contact with those people.

To be clear, Ntro isn’t exclusively a dating app — it’s just as useful for people looking to find friends who share their interests. In contrast to dating apps, which usually use broad interest categories such as “travel” or “yoga,” Ntro lets you customize your interests as narrowly as you’d like to interests such as “Zombie Apocalypse fan,” Resnick told VentureBeat.

“It lets you discover meaningful interactions with people around you,” Resnick said.

The app is a very different business for Resnick, who was part of the BioWare-Pandemic business that Electronic Arts bought for $860 million in 2007. While the BioWare side of the business has done well, Pandemic’s games didn’t sell that well. EA shut it down in 2009 and Resnick left EA in 2010. He vowed to take six months off, but wound up taking off only two. Then he started Nprogress in his home in Los Angeles.

The team toiled for two years on its app. Resnick funded it himself for the first year and then raised $1.7 million in angel funding from investors Jarl Mohn, Gordon Crawford, Kevin Wall, Activation Media Partners, Baroda Ventures, SV Angel, Jeff Pulver, and Richard Crowell. Most of the investors are from the Los Angeles area, where the company is based.

The Ntro app is available now on both iOS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) and Android. The app will connect people in the Los Angeles and San Francisco Bay Area regions. The company will add more territories over time.

Resnick said the Ntro app is better than dating apps because it focuses on quality over quantity. It makes high-quality matches with people in your area. Nprogress will focus on marketing the app in the local regions so that it can grow its user base fast. Earlier this summer, the company tested the app at a couple of universities — the University of Southern California and the University of California at Berkeley — and is now opening it up wider.

With Ntro, no check-in is required. The app runs in the background. Some apps that do that use a lot of battery power, but Nprogress says it took special care to create an app that checks in only a few times a day and therefore balances battery consumption with timeliness.

The app doesn’t share your location, personal info such as last name, or phone number. When it finds a match, it shows you a picture of the person and your common interests. Then you have several options to connect, such as an in-app text message. You can also add the person as a friend on Facebook. If you click “available,” that means you are open to connecting with the person. If you don’t want to connect, you can ignore the match or say “not now” and it won’t rematch you with that person for 24 hours. You can also block a person so you’ll never be matched again.

It gives you a variety of ways to make contact with someone, but it preserves the serendipity of running into someone by accident. Resnick said he thought about doing the app because he kept spending a lot of unproductive time at airports. Rivals include dating apps such as Grindr, Sonar, and Mingle. There are also a variety of networking apps for conventions. The app is free. In the future, Nprogress might add monetization such as targeted ads.

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