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Area360 CEO Chris Smith.
Area360 CEO Chris Smith.

For Chris Smith, what started as a simple trip to the zoo has turned into a fast-growing startup that just reeled in a sizable investment round.

Area360 today announced a $3.5 million Series A round led by Madrona Venture Group. The company develops mobile location technology that airports, museums, and more can use to help improve the visitor experience with contextual content delivered at the right time, in the right place, to a smartphone.

The company originally launched in New Zealand after Smith left a local zoo wondering how to bridge the disconnect between the zoo’s professional knowledge base and their visitors’ curiosity. Smith later created a mobile app in 2012 called STQRY that could enhance the visitor experience with location-aware content — soon later, Smith had other top art and cultural organizations interested in the technology.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 11.41.09 PMWith the re-brand and fresh funding, STQRY now becomes one of Area360’s products as the company aims to be a top provider of location and context-aware software. The startup also just moved its headquarters to the Maritime Building at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. It employs 10 in Seattle and 20 in New Zealand, and expects to add another 10 employees by the end of 2015.

Area360 already has more than 400 customers worldwide including Emirates Airlines; the Smithsonian in Washington D.C;, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; and The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. Its software helps airports direct travelers to their gate or nearest restroom, for example, and lets cultural organizations offer a multimedia-rich experience that extends beyond physical signs and posters.

There are certainly a number of beacon-related systems already on the market today, many of which focus on push advertising in the retail industry. Smith said Area360 differentiates by appealing to a broader client base and utilizing what he calls “seamless integration.”

“We built our platform to work with all beacon and WiFi hardware for indoor positioning, and pull in GPS for seamless outdoor to indoor experiences,” he explained. “We also build our products for full API integration, so our clients can sync their location data with CRM, sales, and marketing data.”

Smith added that the response from customers thus far has been “overwhelming.” His company, which has raised $3.9 million to date, will use the fresh cash to continue developing its software, hire employees, and expand to new verticals like healthcare where “we believe our platform will deliver tremendous value,” Smith noted.

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