FiftyThree raises $15 million from Andreessen Horowitz to move beyond Paper
By now you're probably familiar with Paper, a drawing application that has won an Apple Design Award and plenty of attention for its user interface, which has rethought the way basic interactions like pinch-to-zoom or color selection should work on a touchscreen. The app has been featured by Apple in the App Store, on its website, and in commercials; described as an "Instagram for drawing"; and often included in discussions about user experience design. Physical notebooks are boring -- Paper is anything but.
But you might not be as familiar with FiftyThree, the company behind the app that has contented itself with staying behind the scenes while the spotlight follows its creation. That's about to change. The company is today announcing that it has closed a $15 million funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz* so that it can hire engineers in Seattle and New York, expand its product line, and start to become something more than "the company that made Paper."
"Paper is just the beginning," says FiftyThree CEO Georg Petschnigg. The company is currently working on a service meant to encourage collaboration between artists, Petschnigg says, and plans to begin working on hardware accessories as well.
"When we think about our mission of building essential tools and removing barriers to creation, it's clear that to build integrated, high-quality solutions you have to be able to look across hardware and services," Petschnigg says. Hence the funding. FiftyThree has been developing new services and hardware products for a while now, but raising the funds will allow the company to hire and develop new products at a faster rate.
The last two years have been all about Paper. FiftyThree released the app, updated it with some oft-requested features, and has since focused on maintaining the application while simultaneously working to develop new products. This year is the first to be about FiftyThree as a company that exists beyond Paper, and Petschnigg says that the funding --and the products FiftyThree will be able to release a bit faster because of it -- is the first step towards becoming something more. (Or, to stick with stereotypical startup-speak, "take it to the next level.)
This should be made apparent by the company's name. The average length of a person's forearm, Petschnigg says, is 53 centimeters. "We want to build tools that people keep within arm's length." Paper was the company's first product to become just that; FiftyThree is hoping that it won't be the last.
*Andreessen Horowitz partners Marc Andreessen, Chris Dixon, and Jeff Jordan are personal investors in PandoDaily. SV Angel, which also participated in FiftyThree's funding round, is also an investor in PandoDaily.