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Microlocations & the future of retail, events & commerce

GPS changed everything about our lives in the past decade, but an even bigger change is coming in the next decade: micro-location.

We used to have glove compartments filled with maps, we set up elaborate plans to “meet at the fountain at 11:45pm,” not to mention the 15 minute phone calls with cab companies in which we had the pleasure of hearing a salty dog dispatcher scream at a driver over a CB radio.

Delightful stuff that our kids will never understand as they blindly follow Waze’s audio instructions while driving, never once questioning them as they’re told to take 4th Avenue instead of the BQE. They simply “Glympse” each other at Disneyland before UberXing themselves home on their parents’ account--with dad hovering over the driver’s speed while playing poker.

New sensor technology called “beacons” is going to track us all down to the--wait for it--inch. You’re not going to meet “over by the Small World ride” at Disney, you’re going to meet 17 feet from the back of the line.

We’re not going to go to the bar and ordering a drink, we’re going to order another round of greasy grilled cheeses while walking from the pool table to a booth at Antonio’s Nut House, with a waiter trailing behind us -- never needing to ask “Did you move tables?”

None of us know the exact impact of micro-location, but my four-person research team (it’s good to be me!), studied the local space for the past four months and they narrowed down over 400 players to the 70 most

After reviewing those 70 with them, I personally narrowed it down the 30 most important. I met with all of those for an hour each and I can tell you my mind is completely frackin’ blown by the impact of local.

And I’m going to invest a couple of million bucks in this space in the next year. I’m not exaggerating. Why? Because some of my best investments to date are in the local space: Uber, Thumbtack, MyTime, StyleSeat, Boxbee and SignPost are all crushing it for me. In fact, the returns on that “cohort” -- even excluding the super-unicorn-pegasus of Uber--are 10 to 50x already.

Instead of hoarding my research and deal flow, I do something no other angel does: I host an event and let everyone out there come meet the companies I’m *considering* investing in and that I think will change the world.


1. I’m not in competition with other investors. Startups love to have me along for the journey and I invest for the journey, not the destination. Sure, some VCs have sharp elbows, but after 70 deals, I’ve only had one situation where another investor screwed me. They f@¢ked me badly, but reputation is a long game and I’m not sweating it.

2. Angel investing is a collaborative sport. I need two or three folks to join me on every deal in the first year or two of the startup to support the founder.

Here are some of the folks I’ve been hanging out with, and who will be coming to LAUNCH Beacon on June 16th in New York City.

[ You can buy a ticket here: and use JCAL10 to get 10% off ]

Kenny Lauer runs digital for the Golden State Warriors, which is one of the most exciting arenas in sports. He’s working with Aaron Mittman of Sonic Notify to do insane, down-to-the-seat-level promotions, like upgrading your seat, getting discounts for food and player info.

Micro-location in sporting events and concerts will be extraordinary in the coming years. Imagine you’re on the Knicks side of the arena and your tablet shows you close-ups of only the Miami Heat side. Imagine we all get alerts on our smartphones of what play the Giants should call, we vote and the coach calls that play... I know, that would never happen... (except in a pre-season game perhaps!). Can you imagine how many people would go to a preseason game where we got to call the last play of each quarter?

Sold. Out.

Nathan Pettyjohn is the founder of Aisle411, and they are doing “shopper navigation,” so that you can search for “white dress shirts,” and see seven different ones on a map at some big retailer--then browse through them for inventory, sizes and prices before dragging yourself to the third floor back row to only find out that they don’t have your size (or that they want $425 for a crisp white shirt).

Ryan Caldbeck is the founder of CircleUp, which one of my portfolio companies, SmartyPants Vitamins, used to raise a $2M+ round of funding. It’s AngelList but for consumer packaged goods ONLY. They get 100+ deals put into their system a month. They narrow it down to the two or three that they then circulate among the world’s best CPG investors. It’s awesome.

Perch Interactive makes interactive tables and shelves. Imagine coming into the Nike or Apple store, and when you pick up a product a video plays... on the shelf (from a projector). And you can simply click on the table to see price, order and be on your way. This technology and platform will turn shelves into sales associates and keep us from having to look up additional information on our smart phones.

We are not limiting ourselves at LAUNCH Beacon to technology companies, we’re also inviting folks like Ryan Craver, who runs strategy for Hudson's Bay | Lord & Taylor, so we will get to hear from the people selecting these technologies what they really think will drive sales and pull people into stores.

A clever founder named Phillip Bückendorf will share Downtown, an absurdly slick ordering system for restaurants.

Andrew Farah from Density, which launched at the LAUNCH Festival earlier this year, will share his 2.0. It’s a big, big vision that I’m super excited about. In a way, it’s FourSquare turned on it’s head.

Ashley Etling is a dynamic founder from Red Clay, which has reinvented the process of creating new products through a contest format that huge brands are embracing. I’ve really fallen in love with this startup and the two founders. They are going to change the world, I’m certain of it.
Stuart Wall was one of my first angel investments, and after a couple of pivots he’s built the most powerful SMB marketing platform in the world: Signpost. It’s amazing, and he’s one of the great founders who have pushed me to back “great people” even when their 1st idea isn’t perfect (smart folks figure it out).

Sam Rosen is a Brooklyn-born founder of MakeSpace, which is doing on-demand storage. Very similar to Boxbee (which launched and won LAUNCH Festival in 2013). He just raised a huge round of venture and is doing great things.

There’s a bunch more, but this post is already way too long. Thanks to my partners on this awesome event, Pivotal Labs.

Grab a ticket here:
More speakers & attendees:

all the best, @jason

ps - I wrote a short note to my AngelList Syndicates here

pps - Amazing episode of This Week in Startups with Science Inc team, Peter Pham and Mike Jones

ppps - is launching our Android version! Sign up for the beta here: