Most nights of drinking end with nothing more than a hangover or a lit snapchat story. For Joshua Anton, one such night in 2013 instead ended with an idea for a new app that would eventually become his new company — X-Mode Social.
With such unconventional beginnings it should come as no surprise that X-Mode has not always followed the path of a traditional data startup.
When the company was founded in 2013 it was primarily focused on app development, gaining attention for the eccentric (albeit extremely useful) Drunk Mode and Walk Against Humanity. So how did X-Mode go from a small app company to a major player in the location data field? Here’s the story of X-Mode, and how it went from retracing drunk footsteps to mapping out the planet.
The seed of X-Mode was planted after Anton had an embarrassing phone conversation with a drunk friend. He wondered why there wasn’t an app that protected people from their own poor decision making during a night out — a sort of “condom for your phone,” as he later termed it. Like all great entrepreneurs he set out to solve the problem himself, and X-Mode was born. (Fun fact: Anton himself has never had a drink. The irony is not lost on him.)
Like most companies competing in the highly saturated app marketplace, X-Mode was not immediately successful. After a year, Drunk Mode had 10,000 downloads — a nice, round number, but not enough to make waves. In 2014 however, with the hiring of CMO Jake Ellenburg and a more intensive focus on PR, the app started to really get noticed. Articles from Huffington Post and MTV News hailed the app as “your new best friend,” and drove 50 thousand downloads in a single week. Before long the app was sitting at 1.5 million downloads, a far more comfortable user base, and one that positioned the company to pivot dramatically.
While Drunk Mode surged in popularity, it was not without its problems. The most pressing was the major drain on battery caused by the app’s location-tracking features. In response, the company decided to develop their own SDK to track location accurately without taking up too much battery life. The SDK was even more effective than they had planned, though: what started as a simple workaround soon became the company’s future.
Location data is a rapidly growing industry — Forbes anticipates that it will be worth $203 billion by the year 2020.
It is also a demanding and competitive field, where only companies with high quality data and an innovative, relentlessly dedicated team can survive. Anton and the rest of X-Mode knew this. They also knew that if they were successful, they could be a part of a movement that would reshape the way we think about data and identity, both online and offline. With the SDK they had built, they steered the company into a bold new direction.
Without abandoning the apps that helped them on their way up, X-Mode began to explore the possibilities of location tracking and data monetization. The first app that made use of their SDK was their own — Walk Against Humanity, a step counter that insults users in order to motivate them to pick up the pace. Soon, the company began to expand into other apps, offering seamless integration of the SDK and a self-sustaining revenue stream. As more clients signed up, X-Mode accumulated a database of anonymous location data from users across the country.
Over 8,000,000 users are sharing their location with apps using the SDK, and we hope for this number to increase to 1 in 5 Americans in the next few years. By mapping out such a significant portion of the population, X-Mode aims to improve safety and convenience in the smartphone age.