Yesterday, I wrote about companies that are reinventing the mundane household products we see around us every day, namely things like Nest’s learning thermostat and the Kickstarter runaway Soma.
But another company is also laying the groundwork for this new, software-drenched household. The company IFTTT (pronounced like “gift” without the G) today announced a $7 million Series A round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with NEA and Lerer Ventures participating as well. John O’Farrell, an investing partner at AH, who will sit on IFTTT’s board, says we can expect “a bunch more” Series As from the investment firm in the coming months, preempting any questions about a Series A crunch.
As you’ve no doubt heard, “Software is eating the world.” Okay, that’s the second time in two days that I’ve quoted that line, but it’s actually relevant because Marc Andreessen is literally putting his money where his mouth is.
The company, whose name is short for “If this, then that,” creates little logical, digital connections between apps, services, and physical things. For example: If I upload a picture to Facebook, send it to Dropbox as well. Or, if it rains tomorrow, send me a text message. Users can search the Web service for the connections, which the company calls “recipes,” that they might find most helpful.
But chief executive Linden Tibbets hopes the strictly online to online connections are just the tip of the iceberg. IFTTT has already delved into physical products with things like integrating with the Belkin WeMo, which let’s you control items around the house from your smartphone. And he wants to make that experience — the so-called “Internet of Things” — more ubiquitous.
I asked him to explain how something like my desk could work for me, like an inert piece of wood should. He mentioned little things, like having your desk send you an alert to stretch and walk around if you’ve been sitting for more than two hours. Then you can connect your notes to your Evernote account.
Though the software gurus at places like Nest have done all the work for users in terms of infusing the Web into their physical products, IFTTT thinks this shouldn’t be a requirement for every manufacturer, as connected devices become more commonplace. After all, not every team is composed of ex-Apple folks, who have years of experience integrating software and hardware. That responsibility will likely fall to the users, Tibbets says. “Are we going to wait for a company to tell us how these things interact? Or is it going to be more bottom up?” he says. O’Farrell says putting the onus on users is actually a reprieve to manufacturers. “It’s something they find very intimidating,” he says.
Still, while those forward-looking questions about a software-eaten world are fun, O’Farrell insists that the funding is sufficient for the here and now. “We’re not making this investment as a bet that the Internet of Things has to happen,” he says. He points to enterprise opportunities in connecting business and productivity apps. He also mentions the release of a new mobile app out early next year. Tibbets is mum about it, because he says it will take an unexpected approach, and not simply be the smartphone version of the Web service.
The company will also use the new funding to create a platform for Web developers to build on IFTTT and its recipes. Tibbets says he’d also like to expand the eight-person team to about 15 by the end of next year.
With boundless possibilities for connections between software and hardware and back to software channels, Tibbets says the company needs to get better at helping users find relevant recipes. Part of the game plan going forward is ramping up discovery features, based on a person’s job or the kind of friends he or she has. As the lines between online and offline blur, the key will be deciding which of these connections are important, and which ones you can leave online.
[Image courtesy Phil Manker]