Highland Capital, Andreessen Horowitz & Others Put $1.8M Into Aviate, An Intelligent Homescreen For Android

Posted: May 11, 2013 in Apps, Funding & Exits, GT, Mobile, Startup
Tags: , , , ,

Facebook is not the only company to invest in
development of products that take better advantage
of the Android homescreen. South Korean messaging
app KakaoTalk also recently announced its intentions
to release a rival Android launcher. And
now, Highland Capital, Andreessen Horowitz and others have invested $1.8 million into Aviate, an ex-
Googler backed intelligent homescreen for Android
devices. The round also included participation from Freestyle
Capital, Draper Associates, and other angels, most
notably Dan Rose, Facebook VP of Business
Development and Monetization, and Keval Desai. The
company actually closed on the funding in December,
but is only announcing now. The funds will be used to grow the team quickly, and further develop the
product. The company behind Aviate, Palo Alto-based
ThumbsUp Labs, was founded in November 2011 by
a team with backgrounds in computer science, search
and OS development. Co-founder Mark Daiss majored
in Cognitive Science at the University of California,
and previously founded Pupil, an image based Q&A app, where he also focused on the problem of bringing
relevant information to smartphone users when it was
most useful. Meanwhile, Stanford grad Will Choi worked for Google
on its front-end search team; and Paul Montoy-
Wilson, also a Stanford grad, worked as a Product
Manager for the Android Marketplace (now Google
Play), and had previously co-founded customer
feedback app HaveASec. Each founder had his own take on how to make
mobile phones more effective – Daiss having seen
the app discovery and engagement challenges
firsthand; Montoy-Wilson with insight into the Android
ecosystem itself; and Choi coming at the problem
from the search perspective – he wanted to rebuild mobile search from the ground up. What Aviate Does With the Aviate, the goal is to help mobile users de-
clutter their Android homescreens, and instead view
relevant information adapted to their surroundings,
rather than a grid of apps. Where Facebook Home
has taken over the Android environment as something
of an “apperating system,” to use the term coined by Wired (referring to something in between an app and
operating system), the team at Aviate believes
there’s more that can be done with such technology,
beyond simply optimizing your social networking
experiences. Users today have a number of mobile applications on
their devices which they access regularly, and that
serve a wide variety of functions. It may not make
much sense to give over complete control to just one,
such as is the case with Facebook Home. (Early
adopters of Facebook Home seem to agree, ranking and reviewing the new app poorly.) Other means to view app information comes in the
form of push notifications and homescreen widgets –
neither of which tend to be personalized or
contextually aware, outside of location-aware weather
widgets, perhaps. In addition, app notifications these
days are borderline spam, as developers feel increased pressure to get their app’s users to return
and re-engage. How It Will Work Aviate wants to be different by working with your
favorite applications to pull in information and surface
it when you need it. (The app is not yet available for
testing, so we can only speak of the company’s
intentions here, rather than the real-world results.) What we do know – and the team is being cagey so
far – is that the app will be downloadable from Google
Play, and after installation, it will integrate deeply with
the phone to upgrade the overall experience. Like
Facebook Home, it’s more than an Android launcher.
Aviate will organize all your applications for you, and then based on context (time, location, etc.), it will
begin to adapt to you individually as it learns what
apps you need, when and where. For example, Aviate will know that when you’re at
work, you may need one subset of apps, but when
you’re at the gym, you might use another. It also
learns what information you need at your fingertips,
and surfaces that more proactively, and in a more
personalized manner over time. Details on that aspect are still sparse. Frankly, it sounds a lot like the Google Now concept,
but applied to the broader world of mobile
applications. Already, it seems like something Google
would want to snap up for itself, but it remains to be
seen how well it all really works. The company is in
the process of filing several patents around the technology now, however, and if granted, those could
make the company more valuable in time. Though obviously Android is where such innovation
can take place, Aviate says it has plans for an iOS
version in the future. The app will launch into private beta in the next
couple of months.


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