Like most people, Nick Evans and Mike Farley hated to lose things. So the engineers applied their professional knowledge to their personal problem. What if they could use mobile technology to ensure they never misplaced their keys, wallet or phone again?
The two friends started developing Tile—a lost-item finder and mobile app—in late 2012, leaving their full-time software jobs to do so. “Mike and I wanted to take a simple, universal problem and put together a simple, elegant solution for it,” says Evans, who serves as Tile’s CEO.
After incubating the San Mateo, Calif.-based startup with Silicon Valley mobile accelerator Tandem Capital, which netted the duo $200,000 in seed funding, they famously raised $2.6 million through a monthlong Selfstarter crowdfunding campaign in summer 2013. (Their initial ask was just $20,000.) In all, roughly 50,000 backers hoping to keep tabs on their purses, laptops, mobile devices, luggage, cars and bicycles preordered about 180,000 Tile devices.
The square plastic Tile, which measures less than 1.5 inches, attaches to an item by hook, ring or adhesive and uses Bluetooth Low Energy to record the last place it was left. The system alerts the user visually on their phone—and if desired, by melody from the Tile itself—when they’re within 100 feet of the item. Individual Tiles sell for $25, four-packs for $70, eight-packs for $130 and 12-packs for $180. The app, so far available only for iOS, is free.
The app supports up to eight Tiles at once, each of which lasts about a year. (Users can return dead Tiles to the company for recycling.) Users also can log into their Tile account on a friend’s device running the app (handy if you lose your phone). And a Community Find feature taps the entire Tile network to discreetly locate lost items, provided they’re in range of another Tile user.
After struggling to fulfill the initial avalanche of orders, Tile changed manufacturers, raised $3.5 million more in seed funding, beefed up its staff and began shipping the product in summer 2014. The company has shipped more than 500,000 Tiles to 30 countries.
Evans declined to give revenue or customer figures but did say demand for the product continues to increase month over month. To scale production, the company raised $9.5 million in Series A funding led by Silicon Valley firm GGV Capital in August 2014. The round included angel contributions from technology bigwigs hailing from GoPro, Yahoo, Square, Guitar Hero and Buddy Media, among other companies.
Tile used the funds to expand from 10 employees to 20, bringing in new developers and staffers in quality control, marketing and customer support. The company is developing an Android version, although Evans declined to give a release date. Also in the pipeline: a feature that tracks Tiles shared among users (for example, to find a remote control or storage-unit key), and a selection of smaller, thinner Tiles in multiple colors.
Tile is sold on Amazon and through the company’s website, but the startup is hatching plans to expand into other online and brick-and-mortar channels. New partnerships are in the works, too. Last year, for example, BLUNT, which bills itself as the “world’s first traceable umbrella,” began selling products with Tile embedded.
Jeff Richards, managing partner at GGV Capital, believes Tile’s simple design, ease of use and reasonable price will make it a smash hit.
“We really think this is a mass-market product,” says Richards, who sits on Tile’s board of directors. “This is the kind of the product tha I can send to my mom, and she can set it up herself and be using it the next day.”