i-Free halts funding to start-up that created the Girls Around Me mobile app
St. Petersburg, Russian Federation – 5 April 2012. i-Free reports that its venture foundation subdivision i-Free Ventures has stopped funding Places Around Me, the start-up that created the mobile application Girls Around Me.
i-Free decided to stop funding Places Around Me because of the negative reaction its mobile application Girls Around Me has recently provoked among potential users.
The application Girls Around Me was developed for the users of social geo network Foursquare to improve the search of nearby leisure and entertainment venues popular among young people. The application was placed in the App Store in December 2011 and it was downloaded by more than 70 000 people since then. During this period, no complaints were received from users, the press or social, governmental and commercial organizations. At the end of March 2012, following the publication of an article containing several factual errors, a number of media outlets criticized Girls Around Me: unfairly, the application was blamed for the fact that with its help individuals could obtain personal information about the users of the social networks Foursquare and Facebook, and also stalk and monitor these users of social networks.
These charges were absolutely unfounded: Girls Around Me only operated using the data of those Foursquare users who had made their information available in the network and that was available to third party developers through Foursquare API. The application didn’t ‘scrape’ or distribute any information protected by individuals’ privacy settings. Monitoring or stalking people using Girls Around Me were likewise impossible.
In spite of the unfounded nature of this criticism, i-Free nevertheless decided to stop funding the Girls Around Me project in its current form after it raised a negative public reaction.
“We think that Girls Around Me inadvertently stepped over the line that divides useful products and unethical attempt to manipulate with people’s sense of safety. Although I personally believe that increasing openness is an inevitable part of the modern, connected world, I do acknowledge that the marketing and placement of this product as a dating aid is unethical and plays upon primitive feelings. In spite of it being a complex situation for us, I am glad that the media attention towards this product has raised the question of privacy in social networks and has served to remind people about the risks connected with the publicity of the data placed at such resources,” said Kirill Petrov, co-founder of i-Free.
In his turn investment director of the foundation i-Free Ventures, Georgy Zamishlyaev, brought into focus: “Our investment in Places Around Me was based on an expectation to launch a product to help people find the more popular leisure venues. However, the created application ultimately positioned in another way. Due to the feelings of potential customers, we, together with the founders of i-Free, decided to halt this project’s funding, at least until we see the readiness and desire from the Places Around Me team to create a new product that considers all the criticism expressed towards the application Girls Around Me.”
After ten years working on the international market, i-Free attaches great importance to its reputation as an innovative and socially responsible company committed to creating outstanding high-tech products with the ability to improve the world around us. Our overriding aim has always been to make the everyday lives of people around the world more interesting and convenient.
Beginning its activities in Russia, today i-Free provides its products and services in more than one hundred countries around the world. More than 500 people work in the company’s offices in Russia, India, China, countries of CIS. In 2011, i-Free’s revenues exceeded $200 million.
Among the projects which i-Free funds are the FounDreams company which together with child psychologists creates educational mobile applications for children; the team which created CoinKeeper, an award-winning application for managing personal finances for iPhone and Android; an AI platform and Everfriends, the product based on it, which has emerged as a potential rival of Siri technology; and a whole range of fascinating games for all existing mobile platforms.
“All these and many other products make people’s life better and more comfortable,” says Kirill Petrov. “Of course, we regret that the team of the Places Around Me project unwittingly created a product which caused negative feelings among some people. But we can see the positives in this controversy: the situation with Girls Around Me showed again that any technological innovation, whether the first automobiles of a century ago or the social networks of today, needs time to be accepted by potential customers.”
i-Free is a Russian innovation-minded company that has expanded around the CIS since 2001 and internationally, since 2006. i-Free is a specialist developer and implementer of innovation projects in mobile and NFC technology, electronic finance, digital content distribution, electronic payments and micropayments, apps for smartphones and new network devices, digital products for the B2C market, and B2B mobile marketing projects.
i-Free is present and operates successfully outside Russia with offices in Kyiv (Ukraine), Minsk (Belarus), Almaty (Kazakhstan), Mumbai (India), Beijing (China) and Sao Paulo (Brazil). i-Free products and services are now available in more than 100 countries.
i-Free is headquartered in St. Petersburg, Russia, and has an office in Moscow. The company currently employs over 500 staff.
i-Free partners with some of the leading cellular operators in Russia and the CIS, with global mobile equipment vendors, banks, transnational brands and trademarks, major media holdings, publishers and Internet resources.
For more detailed information about the company please visit www.i-free.com
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Tel. + 33 641 87 24 53