One of our core theses is around the importance of signal from passionate hobbyists. Visit any hacker space or Maker Faire these days, and you'll see unmanned aerial vehicles. Chris Anderson started DIY Drones as an open-source community for UAV enthusiasts, and we're excited to be on board as he takes it to the next level with 3D Robotics.
Acquia offers commercial products and services specific to the Drupal open source project. Dries Buytaert, the original creator of Drupal, is a co-founder of Acquia and longtime friend of OATV. With Drupal adoption booming and with Dries’ involvement, this was an easy one for us to get excited about.
AMEE was started as a non-profit side project by the founder, Gavin Starks, who had a vision to aggregate and automate access to the world’s environmental and energy data. Its name, AMEE, literally translates to Avoiding Mass Extinction Engine. The vision then, and now, is to collect, normalize and distribute all of the world’s environmental intelligence data. Helping companies and consumers understand and minimize the environmental impact of their products is an important idea and AMEE is an important company that we’re proud to support.
We see an accelerating trend toward the empowerment of individual creators of things. Be it art, music, design or devices, the web enables the amplification of individual efforts to a degree that was previously impossible. Artists Wanted is furthering this trend with their service, See, which connects and enables collaboration between creatives across disciplines and around the world. They will play an increasingly important role in helping individuals not only get discovered, but discover just how far they can go with their creations.
Betabrand is an online-only clothing company that designs, manufactures, and releases new fashion inventions every week—thanks to collaborations with all sorts of local and world wide designers. We first talked to Betabrand in the summer of 2009 and, although we loved what they were doing, we passed on an investment. Chris Lindland, the founder, then raised less money from some angel investors and increased the company’s revenue to what we would have expected from a much larger investment. So when we looked at Betabrand again in late 2010, we had to invest.
Before Twitter or Facebook popularised them, URL shorteners were being played with by alpha geeks. Then social services started changing the way we share and discover information. Links became the currency of this new social economy. Bitly has developed a stack of services to help brands, media companies and individual users unlock the value of a link, regardless of where and how it’s shared.
We have a long history with the founding team of Bloom. We’ve known Ben and admired Tom’s work for years. Jesper was our first summer Associate at OATV. But, we never found an opportunity to back them in anything until they started talking to us about Bloom. Collectively, the Bloom founding team are some of the leading minds in big data visualizations, generative art and interaction design. Their vision for Bloom was to pair their expertise with the new wave of computing devices coming to market. Rather than simply shoehorning existing web content into these new form factors, Bloom is actively inventing the data models, visualization metaphors and playful interactions that will define the post-PC era. We love using everything they’ve built and we think a lot of other people will too.
We got to know the Chartbeat team around the time that we invested in Bitly. They shared office space. What Bitly was doing to track realtime link data, Chartbeat was doing to track realtime click data on publisher websites. A future that includes a publisher’s ability to learn and adapt content to its users in realtime is a pretty exciting one to us.
Chumby Industries was birthed at Foo Camp in the summer of 2005 by alpha geeks who wanted to create a hackable WiFi consumer device. The long-term vision extended beyond a single device to a future full of wireless connected devices in our homes and lives. Open source hardware hackers, however, failed to flock to the Chumby device, and with the launch of the iPhone in 2007, the bar for the success of a consumer device was set even higher. The company wound down in early 2012. Bunnie Huang, one of its co-founders, talks about the lessons he learned here
Just as the move from the farm to the factory required developing a new world view and skill set, the transition from our analog past to our digital future is requiring a similar shift in understanding and skills. Codecademy is an effort to take anyone from a standing start to a basic understanding of computer coding via their online tools. If that same person wants to push deeper and develop into a full fledged computer programer, Codeacademy can help them do that too. As this global shift to code based economies unfolds, we think the potential impact of their tools is staggering.
Devver set out to change the way software was tested. Their initial approach was to host popular open source testing tools and create a shared backend that would bring software testing and deployment out of the dark ages. We knew that testing tools had historically been a tough business but we wanted to see if the benefits of hosted infrastructure changed that. In the case of Devver, it didn’t and the company shut down in 2009. The team wrote up a great post mortem here.
The co-founder of Fastly, Artur Bergman, an O’Reilly Radar contributor and Velocity conference founder, is what we call a core Foo (Friend of O’Reilly) person. So when Artur told us that he was ready to launch a globally distributed network of blindingly fast edge servers that deliver dynamic content and analytics, we leapt at the chance to be part of his new company.
We met Gunnar Counselman through a chance encounter over Twitter. Tim was looking for a subject matter expert on military education and all roads and introductions pointed to Gunnar. Turns out transitioning military personal from active duty soldiers to well-integrated and educated civilians was a problem Gunnar had been trying to crack long before it hit our radar. As we discussed the problems and opportunities around this transition, Gunnar shared experiences and stories of his multiple tours in Iraq and the needs of soldiers looking to build on their military experience. Fidelis is an ambitious attempt to create a curriculum and network for educating and empowering military personnel as they re-enter civilian life.
FitnessKeeper is the company behind RunKeeper which, on the surface, is just a running app. But, looks can be deceiving. What appears to be a pretty straight forward running app is actually just the wedge to a much bigger opportunity. In FitnessKeeper we see a huge opportunity in the data being collected from a wave of sensors such as phones, watches, shoes, video games and many that aren’t even on the market yet. FitnessKeeper has the opportunity to layer social dynamics, expert advice, community and game mechanics to create value from this data and we think that’s exciting.
We had been a fan of Dennis’ work since the Dodgeball days. So when we heard he was leaving Google to do something new we reached out. Over the following year we stayed in touch and built a relationship while he tried out a few different projects. But it was clear that the itch he began to scratch with Dodgeball just wasn’t going away. We caught wind of Foursquare in 2008 and started bugging Dennis for an invite to try it out. The invite email came just before SXSW in 2009. Then another email followed a few months later. Turns out they thought they might have really hit on something and wanted to talk about a potential investment. The rest, as they say, is history.
Gamelayers set out to turn the passive act of surfing the web into an engaging multiplayer gaming experience, They coined a new term for this idea—Passively Multiplayer Online Games or PMOGs. PMOG struggled to find an audience, even in its second incarnation as The Nethernet. When The Nethernet failed to find a large audience, the team decided to make a few Facebook games before they eventually wound down the company. Although Gamelayers, the company, didn’t work out as an investment, the lessons learned from layering game mechanics on top of every day activities factored into our initial Foursquare investment.
Justin Hall shares his lessons learned from Gamelayers.
Get Satisfaction sees the future. Before Facebook opened their doors to business and before Twitter became a thing, they saw that social media was changing the relationship between companies and their customers forever. Their vision has been to tear down the barriers of communication between the two and deliver tools that help them work together to solve problems, generate new ideas and improve the health of their overall relationship. They’ve become a leader in their category and we’re proud to have been with them from the beginning.
We got an email from Roman Stanek as he was raising his seed round of funding for Good Data, which connects business people with the data they need to make better decisions. Roman had built and sold two successful businesses prior to founding Good Data and said that Tim’s ideas had inspired both businesses. We weren’t investors in the the prior two companies, but we’re glad to be a part of the third.
Grouply instantly and automatically upgraded Yahoo Groups, Google Groups and other old-style email lists and message boards into modern online communities, connecting people with the same interests and passions. It was acquired by Oodle in 2010. One of the co-founders talks about the acquisition here.
Instructables was OATV’s very first investment. In it, we saw a thriving community of makers and DIY enthusiasts ranging from home improvement buffs to hardware hackers and topics ranging from crafting to cooking and everything in between. We’ve long held that the most important trends and ideas emerge from what alpha geeks and hackers do in their spare time. With the most active community of DIY enthusiasts on the Web, Instructables has grown to become one of the most preeminent how-to online sites. Instructables was acquired by Autodesk in August 2011.
There are some entrepreneurs you’d back no matter what they did. After our experience backing Amit Shah and Scott Switzer at Open X we decided to put them in that bucket. So when they told us they were getting the band back together to start something new, we had to be a part of it. Turns out it was actually a pretty great idea too. Building on their experience at Open X and in the areas of e commerce, they spotted an opportunity to re-engineer the idea of analytics with a specific focus on the needs of online retailers. By exclusively servicing this sector, Jirafe is able to build a uniquely tailored experience that delivers realtime feedback loops, granular targeting tools and executive level visibility into site performance and conversion that no other service can provide. We’re thrilled to be back in business with these guys.
LearnZillion aims to disrupt K-12 classroom education with video lessons and teacher tools that comply with the Common Core curriculum. What attracted us to LearnZillion is the way the co-founders, who have been both teachers and a principal, construct their curriculum: they run education hackathons, gathering a dream team of teachers who collaborate to create math and literacy video lessons. It’s disruptive, yet respectful to the millions of dedicated teachers who are truly making a difference. We’re excited to enable the best teachers’ vision of the future of education.
Called "next generation Legos" by some, littleBits is a compelling and playful way for beginners to get started making with personal electronics. It appealed to the kid in us as a toy, and yet also resonated strongly with our belief in maker culture as the forefront of the new industrial revolution.
A few years back, we noticed that alpha geeks were attending Foo Camp and putting on sessions that had nothing to do with technology. They were talking about building chicken coops, urban farming and other ideas related to local food and overall sustainability. LocalDirt has created a marketplace for local food, connecting farmers and buyers, and is now the company behind one of the most downloaded local food apps: Locavore.
We've been longtime believers in wearable computing, and Misfit Wearables is making that vision a reality. Their first product, the Shine, is a beautiful personal tracker. It monitors and scores different types of activities, combining utility with beautiful design.
We literally had to crawl across the floor of a bustling London pub to meet with the founders of OpenX. When they described how OpenX was going to turn the largest open source ad server on the market from a project to a company, we were in. The value of an independent alternative for publishers to the banner ad marketplaces of established incumbents was too important a mission not to join.
Connectivity is a very important part of our lives. Mobile coverage data has been locked up for a long time - the carriers know where things are spotty, but their customers don't. OpenSignal succeeded in mapping that coverage by turning the users themselves into the source of that data. We love that. They've got a big vision for crowdsourcing other types of signal data as well, and we're excited by the possibilities.
Parakey was founded by Blake Ross and Joe Hewitt. They were bought by Facebook in 2007.
In 2005, Toby Oliver arrived on US soil and quickly became the buzz of that summer’s Foo Camp. No company embodies the idea of a mobile phone as a sensor more than Path Intelligence. Built on the back of the GNU Radio open source project, Path Intelligence creates low cost sensor networks to gather data on how devices move through physical space. We call it Google Analytics for the real world. Their customers include some of the largest retailers, property owners and transit authorities in the world.
Scientific research is funded largely by taxpayers. However, the existing state of academic publishing is one of high fees to publish, a broken peer review system, and paywalls that deny taxpayers the option to read the research they've paid for. The Open Access publishing movement has taken the first steps toward transparency. PeerJ's founders, scientists and published authors themselves, continue the trend with their new journal and its innovative subscription model.
There are many reasons for stalls in scientific breakthroughs, but limited access to lab facilities and experimental expertise shouldn't be among them. Today's scientists have much to do, but are often time and resource constrained. Science Exchange's solution to this problem is a science-as-a-service marketplace where researchers can post the projects they needed completed, and providers can fulfill those requests. This new marketplace has already facilitated over 1,000 transactions that each move the advancement of scientific discovery forward in large and small ways. We believe they have an opportunity to become a huge marketplace. But more importantly, they will become a marketplace whose work will have a huge impact on our society. And we’re thrilled to be working with them to build it.
When we began looking closely at the emergent trend of Gov 2.0, it was clear that real change to government was going to have to come from the outside in. That is why we found the SeeClickFix model so compelling. Any citizen, anywhere in the world, can start reporting non-emergency issues directly to their local governments without that locality needing to have signed up. The positive results can be seen on city streets across the country. We love to fund companies that literally make the world a better place.
The face of healthcare is changing rapidly. Employers must make tough decisions about how to manage costs, and employees must navigate new high-deductible health plans. Sherpaa guides each customer through the complicated landscape of healthcare and insurance providers. It aims to deliver a human experience enhanced by technology, via a network of like-minded modern medical practitioners.
SonicLiving was born as a concert listing service. When Gabe pitched us the original idea it fell flat. But, we were intrigued with the team and stayed close as their bigger opportunity unfolded. What convinced us to get off the fence and into the trenches was a stack of products targeted at getting people off the couch, away from the computer and connecting in real life around all kinds of events. The SonicLiving event stack is in use by major music artists, movie studios, TV shows and consumer facing web services.
When Charles Jolley wrote the original version of the Sproutcore open source project, there was no iOS, no Android, no WP7 and no modern browsers on any mobile devices. But as Sproutcore evolved it was clear the project and its contributors saw the power of the mobile web as a delivery mechanism for rich native-like consistent experiences, regardless of the device or OS they were delivered on. Strobe is taking Sproutcore to the next level and offering a suite of services and utilities that deliver on the promise of mobile web across any and all devices.
SweetLabs was founded with a simple premise; help developers get their software discovered and help them make money. That guiding premise has helped shape the company and the decisions they make. We like that. The founders know what it takes to build big businesses having taken their last company public. We like that too.
A we live increasingly large parts of our life online, we leave trails of what we do across many social networks. All of those tweets, checkins, updates, and shared photos are documenting real moments in our lives. Timehop resurfaces those past moments, and there's an appealing nostalgia component to that.
At the time we met the TripIt founders, we were seeing a trend among hackers and alpha geeks around creating lightweight email bots. That emerging trend among Alpha Geeks, combined with a killer team with a track record of success in the travel industry, made TripIt a clear choice for investment. By turning flight, hotel, and car rental confirmation emails into simple travel itineraries, Tripit disrupted the travel industry. TripIt was acquired by Concur Technologies for $120M in 2011. The founders discuss the TripIt acquisition here.
Wesabe was started by a good friend of OATV, Marc Hedlund, to tackle a very big problem- helping consumers take control of their personal finances. Despite taking an early lead in this emerging category, Wesabe failed to get enough adoption to become self sustaining. The lessons learned from Wesabe have informed may of our decisions related to data driven business and the potential to improve or enhance others behaviors based on the decision actions of collective user base. Marc wrote a great postmortem on Wesabe here.