(Photo by Juliana Reyes)
GoBabl was born in a little room in Gothenburg, Sweden, during the long darkness in the fall of 2012.
Earl Knight was a year out of Pennsylvania’s Bloomsburg University and playing basketball for Gothia Basket, a team that had folded in 2010 and was trying to relaunch. It was tough. As he describes it, it was dark and cold for most of the day. The team promised to cover housing, food and transportation and when he got there, he realized transportation was a bus pass. But most of all, Knight was lonely.
“I’m sitting there in my little room and I’m like, ‘Where are all the people? What are they doing right now?'” he remembers.
He wondered why there wasn’t a social media platform he could use to find people nearby.
Those were the early inklings of GoBabl, the location-based social media analytics platform he started after moving back to the States. Knight, 28, recently quit his job in software sales to run the company full time.
GoBabl is entering the market in a time when there are already established players, like venture-backed GeoFeedia, Snaptrends and Ground Signal, but Knight says he’ll beat the competition with a lower price. He recently landed his first paid contract with a U.K.-based marketing agency called Digital Radish, he told us during an interview at coworking space Indy Hall, where he’s a member.
— GoBabL (@GoBabl) March 23, 2016
News startup Billy Penn was also an early beta-tester of GoBabl, using it for location-based Twitter and Instagram search in their reporting, and Billy Penn managing editor Shannon Wink’s journalism students at Temple used it as a way to report on breaking news. Billy Penn has since stopped using it, but Wink said it’s been a great tool for teaching students how to evaluate information as it’s happening.
Knight worked with Philly developers Thomas Elliott, who now works at Thomson Reuters, and Anthony Calabro, who now works at Momentum Dynamics, to build the prototype, but he now contracts with a remote team in Ukraine. He joked that all his paychecks go toward the dev team, so he’s living off baked beans and hot dogs for now.
Knight is bootstrapping the business right now, with help from a $15,000 grant from the state-run Business Enterprise of New Jersey, which supports entrepreneurs who are blind or visually impaired (Knight is legally blind). He won the grant in 2015, when he was living between Old City and his hometown of Haddonfield, N.J.