A Q&A with Life360 co-founder and CEO Chris Hulls. The San Francisco–based company was founded in late 2008.
SUB: Please describe what Life360 is, and the value proposition you bring to the mobile market and to family safety technology.
Hulls: Life360 provides mobile and web solutions for family safety. We are primarily known for the Life360 mobile app that lets you know where your family is located, when they need help and what is on their minds using our cross-platform FamilyChannel group chat feature. While we think that social and entertainment applications are great, we saw there was an unaddressed need for a utility app that would help you keep your family safe. By having family safety as our focus, the Life360 app has already proven helpful to some of the 10 million people who have relied on us during natural distasters such as the Japanese tsunami and the East Coast earthquake last year.
SUB: What are your target markets?
Hulls: Life360 is useful for anyone with a family. Unlike some social apps, our user base isn’t primarily early adopters in big coastal cities, but we’ve instead seen widespread adoption throughout the country—and even internationally, although over 90percent-plus of Life360 users are in the U.S. Looking at age and gender, we’ve seen that moms are the ones that tend to get Life360 first and then the rest of the family comes on board.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Hulls: The carriers all offer their own versions of family locator services to their network subscribers for an additional fee. There are also emergency-focused startups such as Guardly that offer some similar services but are not directly competitive with our comprehensive product. In general, we think all of the activity is great as it validates the huge business opportunity.
SUB: What differentiates Life360 from the competition?
Hulls: We feel that it is important that our app is free and that is why we are the largest and fastest-growing mobile family safety application. We’ve worked hard to design an app that is easy to use for all members of your family and provides value in both daily life and emergencies.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Hulls: The company was founded at the end of 2008 but we didn’t launch our app—the Android version—until late 2009. We got our start with Google’s first Android Developer Challenge, which we ended up winning. They awarded us with a $300,000 grant which allowed us to take our first steps in growing the business.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Life360? Was there an “aha” moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
Hulls: The Life360 team came up with the idea after seeing how many families were desperate to connect with each other following Hurricane Katrina, but had no good means of doing so. We figured there had to be a better way to stay in touch with your loved ones both every day and in emergencies by leveraging mobile technology.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Hulls: I think there’s a misconception that anyone can just make an app. I believe it’s particularly difficult to create a mobile application that adds real value into the lives of your customers. It took a while for us to nail down the family locating piece without draining too much battery life, and future improvements on that front will come with phone hardware upgrades.
SUB: You recently raised $3.5 million in Series A funding. What are your plans for the funds?
Hulls: Most of the funding will be used for expanding our team, especially on the technical side. We’ve done well with hiring so far but you have to be aggressive about getting the best talent possible, especially in a competitive landscape.
SUB: Do you plan to raise more outside funding in the near future?
Hulls: We are pretty set where we are now but we also want to be opportunistic about good terms given all the uncertainty in the larger economy.
SUB: What are your goals for Life360 over the next year or so?
Hulls: As smartphone adoption continues to increase, we want to make sure that we are in a strong position to become the de facto app that everyone uses to turn their phone into the ultimate safety device. Optimistically, some people are saying that smartphones will account for 50 percent of new phone sales this year. Others say the figure is more around 20 percent. Either way, within households, there is plenty of room for growth until we get to the point where everyone in the family unit is using a smartphone. In regards to the product, we’ll continue improving usability as we know that engagement is key for us.
Life360 – www.life360.com