I’m excited to announce that Founder’s Co-op just completed an investment in Urban Airship, a new mobile infrastructure company that’s making it radically easier for smartphone developers to implement core features like push messaging and in-app transactions. The deal is is a first for us in several ways: it’s our first significant investment outside Seattle (the company is located just down the road in Portland); it’s our first co-investment with True Ventures (a firm we’ve admired from a distance but never worked with closely before); and it’s the first time an existing Founder’s Co-op portfolio company was the source of a new investment (the AppStoreHQ team met Scott Kveton – Urban Airship’s CEO – at a mobile industry conference last summer and had done business with the company repeatedly before the topic of investment ever came up).
But if aspects of this investment are new for us, the core elements of the deal will be familiar to anyone who knows what we look for in the companies we back. Scott and his team had a great insight about how the mobile messaging world was changing and bootstrapped their a way into a market leadership position based on nothing but smarts, hustle and relentless customer focus. They hadn’t taken any outside funding and were closing in on cashflow breakeven when we started talking, just seven months after they started the company. They were explicitly not looking for a big venture round, but knew they needed to run faster to stay ahead of the pack and wanted to raise just enough money to make that happen.
Not only do Scott and his team have great instincts as entrepreneurs, they’re also working on an incredible opportunity. When Apple released the 3.0 SDK to iPhone developers last summer they introduced two significant new capabilities to the platform: push messaging and in-app transactions. These opened up entirely new paths for developers to drive user engagement and radically increase the value of each install, but both required major engineering overhead to implement effectively. By offering these capabilities to iPhone developers as a turnkey platform, Urban Airship quickly became a critical infrastructure layer in the iPhone developer ecosystem: since launch more than 1,500 developers have used Urban Airship to deliver more than 100 million push messages to over 10 million unique handsets. A similar opportunity exists in the Android ecosystem, and the company also has some unannounced tricks up its product development sleeve that will open up the opportunity even further.
Urban Airship’s deep roots in the Portland startup community only added to our excitement about this deal. Their CEO, Scott Kveton, is also a founding member of PIE (Portland Innovation Experiment), a co-operative work and event space hosted and sponsored by Weiden + Kennedy, the Portland-based ad agency known for their provocative work with Nike, Coca-Cola and other global brands. Urban Airship’s co-founders are all passionate contributors to and advocates for the Portland startup ecosystem, and the level of creative energy and excitement in the community have made it obvious to us that this won’t be the last deal we do in Portland.
So congratulations to Scott and the entire Urban Airship team on this milestone. If you’re an iPhone developer and haven’t yet kicked the tires on the Urban Airship API I’d strongly encourage you to take it for a spin. And if you’re a branded iPhone publisher who views your mobile apps as strategic to your customer engagement strategy, ask your developers to get up to speed on Urban Airship now – there’s some stuff on the way that you’re going to want to jump on when it hits.