Zenly raises $22.5 million from Benchmark for its location-sharing app


French startup Zenly has raised $22.5 million over the summer from Benchmark and a few other investors. Business Insider first reported the round and TechCrunch got an official confirmation. Here’s what we know.

Benchmark is leading the round with Peter Fenton joining the board of the company. Fenton has invested in a few social network companies and also is a board member of Twitter. Existing investors Idinvest and Xavier Niel also put a bit more money into this round. Insight Venture Partners co-founder Jerry Murdock also invested personally.

More interestingly, Benchmark invested directly into the French company. This is significant, as many American VCs prefer to invest in an American company, even if it means that French startups have to do a costly relocation. Benchmark didn’t want to waste time.

Zenly managed to raise this round in just 28 days from intro to money in the bank account — it was a quick one. The company had raised an $11.2 million Series A round last year (€10 million) and still had plenty of money in the bank. But it’s hard to say no to Benchmark.

“Being able to see where your friends are and who they are with opens up a world of product opportunities, which if executed successfully will lead to one of the iconic companies of our lifetime,” Fenton said. “We were immediately won over by the Zenly team’s depth of technical expertise and their vision for the map as a basis for a whole array of social engagement.”

In case you missed the first episode, I already wrote a lengthy profile about Zenly, a promising location-sharing app. This isn’t yet another check-in app, this isn’t just a “Find my Friends”-type app. It goes further than that.

Zenly wants to make location sharing cool again. The company spent a lot of time getting the basics right. In its current state, Zenly is an easy way to share your current location with a handful of friends… or dozens of them.

It turns out that teens loved it — 2 million people have downloaded the app so far. And it’s just the beginning, as Zenly will add layers of useful data on top of this basic premise.

For instance, what if you could get a notification when your friends are hanging out together so that you don’t miss out on a great party? Similarly, Zenly knows before many other apps that a place is trending because it knows when people actually go to this place.

It’s going to be a long road, as Zenly is playing in an incredibly competitive industry. Tech companies like Google, Apple and Uber have been hard at work to build the best map you can use. As Zenly wants to go beyond putting pins on a map, the company will have to build its own mapping data.

Zenly has 35 employees right now, and plans to open an office in San Francisco over the coming weeks. The company plans to keep most of the engineering team in France and operate with two offices. And now, the startup has a lot of money to worry less about money and more about the product.