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A few weeks ago I mentioned GoldRun briefly when talking about a panel I moderated at Mediabistro’s Socialize conference. CEO Vivian Rosenthal opened my eyes to the possibilities for her flagship app that blends mobile, local discovery, augmented reality and game mechanics.

Today she emailed to tell me the company has raised $1.1 million from a group of angel investors including Ed Mathias, Jon Ledecky, Jeremy Zimmer, Jim Hauslein and Mark Ein. The funding will help the company further build out and market the app.

For those unfamiliar, GoldRun lets users find virtual items placed in and around urban areas like New York City or in retail locations like Barnes & Noble. Items are geotagged to show up in certain locations through an augmented reality interface.

Taking pictures with these items unlocks rewards. It’s a fun way for users to bring together the physical and digital worlds, and a new form of interaction capturing the interest of brand advertisers like H&M, Airwalk, Interscope Records and Esquire.

H&M, for example, created a photo scavenger hunt that lets users take pictures with items that appeared through the AR interface in front of certain retail locations. Doing so unlocks a discount that can be redeemed in the actual store.

These actionable components should drive a clearer ROI. But more important, they provide brands the control to craft a media-rich and customized experience. That’s a major sticking point for brands, which has caused many to be slow to adopt other forms of mobile advertising.

Stepping back, what I like most about it — besides the fun factor — is that it is a prime example of mobile 2.0. That’s my word for products that are growing up “mobile first” or “mobile only” rather than being ported from legacy desktop apps or websites.

A big part of that is utilizing the hardware capabilities of the mobile device. That’s very much behind the local discovery trend we keep talking about. It’s also behind other emerging areas like voice and visual search (barcode scanners, augmented reality, etc.).

GoldRun possesses some of these elements and brings it all together in a fun way for users and a good marketing vehicle for brands. We’ll watch closely to see how it puts this new funding to work. In the meantime, check out Fast Company’s profile on Rosenthal.

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