Dragon backs rise of social network


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The Independent Online

A 22-year-old British entrepreneur, backed by Dragons' Den investor Doug Richard, is set to launch a mobile phone-based social network this week and is preparing to raise funds to expand to the US.

Rich Martell, who set up his first site at university, has developed Spottd, which received approval by Apple over the weekend and is now live on the App Store. The service, described as a "location centric app that's all about discovery and sharing the things you love", allows users to find deals, events or services using the GPS in their phones.

He compared Spottd to social news website Digg. "Digg was a place where you could share with anyone when you found good links or articles. This is similar but for real life." Spottd will initially just be available to iPhone users, before the parent company Floxx launches an app for Android, and then possibly BlackBerry and Windows Phone. Mr Martell is heading for the US later this month for more than 20 meetings with US venture capitalists to secure funding of up to $7m (£4.5m) to expand Spottd internationally.

He hit the headlines last year after developing the controversial website FitFinder, which allowed users to share the whereabouts of attractive students, while at University College London. After the site took off – it had 250,000 hits a month after it was set up – the university forced Mr Martell to shut it down, accusing him of bringing the institution into disrepute.

After graduating, he worked in the City, including a stint at Goldman Sachs. He was approached by Mr Richard and Silicon Valley investor Kevin Wall who backed him with about £100,000 to relaunch the site as Floxx earlier this year. "The interest then was creating a location-based social network around mobile apps," Mr Martell said. "We always wanted to allow people to share more things."

The company predicts that it will have 2m users within two years. Currently there is a team of six, but that is expected to expand soon. It has also developed MapChat, an instant messaging service where you can interact with users around you.