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Always Late? There's an App for That

A new location-based app won't get you to your meeting any sooner, but it will tell colleagues when you're due to arrive.
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Ever been late for a meeting? Now, finally, there is an app for that. No, it won't get you to meetings on time (that part is still up to you) but this app will notify the people waiting for you where you are and when you'll arrive.

The app is called Twist and it launches for free in the iTunes app store Wednesday. Co-founders Bill Lee and Mike Belshe are no strangers to the challenges of meeting-packed calendars. Lee is an angel investor and serial entrepreneur, and Belshe is a software engineer who's worked at start-ups and, more recently, Google. 

Lee had more than 200 meetings to attend in the last year--and, inevitably, someone was late to most of them. He grew tired of the back-and-forth via text with traffic updates and explanations for delays. “We figured that this would be a great problem to tackle. All of my meetings were the inspiration for Twist,” Lee says.

Once you download the iOS app (for now it's only on iPhones), it syncs with your calendar so it "knows" when, where, and with whom you're meeting. When you leave for the meeting, the other attendees will automatically be notified, as you make your way, either via text or email with your real-time ETA. Twist also lets you know the fastest route to your destination. 

Twist isn't the only app that detects a user's location, but the co-founders claim that it's one of the few that can tell you when someone will arrive. Belshe and Lee say the app uses a combination of Google Maps and its own mapping technology to come up with estimated arrival times. 

One hurdle many location-based apps face is privacy concerns. But Belshe says that Twist has worked very hard to combat the privacy issue: The company deletes user content, such as messages and information on where you've been, from the its servers within 30 days. And contacts only see your information if you choose to share it with them.

The question is, do people really need an app to do what a simple text message could do? Lee acknowledged that convincing users to change their habits may be one of the company's biggest hurdles. It's still too easy for people to pull out their phones to send the "I'm on my way" message. But Twist's co-founders cite a scary statistic: A new consumer survey conducted by Harris Interactive (on behalf of Twist) reports that 24% of Americans admit to having sent a text or email while driving to let someone know they are on their way. An app that does this for you automatically would eliminate the dangers of texting and driving. 

“You’ve got to make something deadly simple to use,” Lee says.

At least a few investors agree that there's something to the idea. Twist recently closed $6 million in Series A funding from Bridgescale Partners and investors Eric Hahn (former CTO of Netscape) and Jeff Skoll (former eBay President). Lee and Belshe also contributed to the round.




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