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Tile raises $18 million to make personal belongings easy to find

TechCrunch TechCrunch 2/06/2016 Lora Kolodny

To help people find lost, stolen or misplaced personal effects with the proverbial touch of a button, Tile has raised $18 million in a Series B funding round led by Bessemer Venture Partners.

For the unfamiliar, Tile makes square, waterproof tags that employ Bluetooth low-energy radio and GPS technology to find objects they’re attached to, like wallets, keychains, purses and gym bags.

A user affixes a Tile to something they deem essential or valuable, and when they need to find that item, they fire up the Tile app on a mobile device to see if it is within a hundred feet or so.

If an item is nearby, the Tile app signals it to beep, to help users find what’s obscured from view. If an item is further away, the app gives coordinates so that a user can go fetch their belongings, or have someone else do so.

The company reports that users are tracking items in at least 200 countries now.

According to CEO and co-founder Mike Farley, the startup sold $43 million in inventory last year and is on target to at least double revenue in 2016.

Among other things, the San Mateo, Calif.-based startup intends to use its Series B funding for hiring, to ramp up manufacturing, and create a software-based version of its “location awareness” tech, Farley said.

According to Bessemer Venture Partners’ Byron Deeter, who is taking a board seat at Tile, eventually, Tile’s technology could become the “location aware” cloud-based software integrated into consumer electronics such as e-readers, headphones, smart watches or wearable fitness trackers.

Integrations would allow users of such consumer electronics find their devices without having to affix one of Tile’s physical tags.

Why would businesses want to use Tile’s system instead of programming something on their own, like Apple’s Find my iPad, iPhone or Mac feature?

Deeter said, “When you have smart location you are empowered to essentially get your own goods and solve your own problems. Tile can do that more efficiently than any other options on the market. And battery life is extremely important to a customer’s experience of their valuable electronics.”

As part of their due diligence research on Tile, he added, Bessemer investors placed about 20 Tile tags at random locations around Palo Alto, Calif. near their offices, including under restaurant tables, in office parking lots, and inside trash cans.

All of the items were “found,” and alerts were sent to the Tile’s owners within 3 days, with many found in the same day.

That was an indication of Tile’s network density, or the increasing popularity of its app, the investor said.

Tile’s system relies on users walking by lost objects with their mobile devices switched on. The Tile app runs in the background and sends out a ping when an item someone is searching for is detected to the Tile cloud and back down to the other user.

Tiles have unique identifications but don’t store or transmit any personal data. That approach is a good thing from a security perspective, and makes Tile’s system attractive to enterprises, Deeter believes.

Earlier this year, Tile struck an agreement to put its app in newer model Jaguar Landrover vehicles, via their InControl app systems, a kind of touchscreen dashboard. The adaptation of Tile for use in their cars is to make sure drivers never leave without checking a list of “essentials,” or leaving something behind.

Joining Bessemer in the Series B investment in Tile were the company’s earlier backers: GGV Capital, Khosla Ventures, Tandem and Tencent.

The company declined to disclose a post-money valuation, but investors said the deal represented a significant up-round without any unusual terms.

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