In Chelsea, a Laboratory for Mobile Apps Booms

Nihal Mehta

“Things move so fast in the mobile space these days,” says Vic Singh, founder of the mobile photo sharing app, Tracks. “I’ve spent more time as a venture capitalist investing in the space, than I have as an entrepreneur. But the truth is if you’re not building something yourself, and seeing what works on the ground, you’re going to get left behind.”

Tracks is a social publishing service that lets users create and share photos in multiple distinct groups, or tracks. Singh is one of the many residents at Local Response headquarters in Chelsea to wear a number of hats. As a founding partner of ENIAC Ventures, he has also invested in startups like SpotOn, which share the same space and, more recently, the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt. “We practiced our pitches on one another and perfected our schwag. Whenever I have a problem, whether its email marketing or my analytics platform, I turn to the other companies in the space.”

The desks just a few feet away belong to AppFund, a mobile incubator and seed fund. Brett Martin, founder of Sonar, helped to launch a few companies with this team before leaving to start his own. Sonar, which debuted at Disrupt, eventually became one of three finalists for the grand prize. “We’re all in here sort of chewing over the same ideas and that makes for an incredibly productive environment.”

Martin points to Nihal Mehta, a partner at ENIAC and founder of Local Response. “My last company was trying to solve the problem that Local Response is working on right now,” says Martin. “And my current venture, Sonar, is really looking at a lot of the same issues that Nihal’s previous company, Buzzd, was trying to crack.”

SpotOn CEO Gauri Manglik says the informal relationship and proximity to her investors is one of the best things about working out of the space. “Having an email relationship with a backer is one thing, but when I have a question for the guys at ENIAC, I just turn around and yell.” SpotOn gives users a simple way to rate venues and recommends where to go based on a user’s profile and social graph.

Like Betaworks, there is an enormous amount of data and insight being collected in a single place around the theme of mobile location and sharing. “The companies influence each other in some way, shape or form; and completely subconsciously–just from overhearing phone calls or running into common investors,” says Nihal Mehta. Issues like the “ghost town” of a young consumer app or the best way to leverage the APIs of big companies become a shared knowledge base. “Mobile is moving at a lighting pace, and when you share a space, you find yourself evolving even faster.” In Chelsea, a Laboratory for Mobile Apps Booms