The new round comes after two others — one for $1.1 million and another for $4 million. About $20 million of the new round is in exchange for equity, while $5 million is debt. Along with Murdock — whose investments via Insight Venture Partners have included Nest, Flipboard and Twitter — Samsung Ventures and Javelin Venture Partners are also participating, the company said.
Translation: Building a platform offering easy-to-use tools to make prettier and faster mobile apps that work across all devices.
While a lot of this offering is free, CEO Steve Newcomb said — much like development startup GitHub does — Famo.us will eventually expand into other more lucrative arenas aimed at enterprise, such as analytics, testing and payment services.
“After Powerset, I took some time off and HTML5 was all the rage,” said Newcomb, who can make very geeky things seem easy to grok. “As I looked at it, I became kind of a skeptic and thought this was not going to work.”
Indeed not, he said, because Web browsers were designed to render documents and not apps, which is how most people now experience and consume the Internet.
“You can use Famo.us to code on any device, with an aim of creating a low-code and even no-code environment,” said Newcomb. “Our goal is to take all the fundamental building blocks of the Web and rebuild them in Famo.us.”
He added: “Microsoft and Apple can have the operating system, Oracle owns the database, but nobody owns the front end. Maybe that time has come.”
“Famo.us is solving one of the most difficult problems in Web development: Making it easy to create truly cross-platform apps. Software developers have thousands of languages and frameworks to choose from, and they’re looking to deploy across more and more screens,” said Murdock in a statement. “Famo.us is removing that complexity so developers and designers can focus on creating beautiful UIs rather than developing differently for each platform.”
Here’s a blog post on the deal from Newcomb, which is a little wonky, as well as two interesting videos showing off Famo.us in action:
I am very proud to announce that Famo.us has raised $25M, with Insight Ventures and Javelin Venture Partners taking the lead. Joining our board of directors will be Jerry Murdock, founding General Partner of Insight Ventures. We’ve come a long way and now we can truly build out Famo.us into the first-class development platform we envisioned from the start.
I still remember three years ago, when it was just me and Mark working in an old chapel above the YWCA at UC Berkeley. Our startup wasn’t called Famo.us back then, it was called Benchrank. We were attempting to build a Pinterest-meets-About.me app using HTML5. Like many developers at the time, we were struggling with HTML5, its poor performance, its lack of basic features, the esoteric inconsistencies between browsers, and performance “solutions” that turned out to be hacks that didn’t scale.
At first, we thought it was just us. But every time we went to an HTML5 meetup, we found that everyone else was experiencing the same gut-wrenching pains we were. Then, in a moment that took the wind out of the entire HTML5 industry, Facebook announced it was pulling out of HTML5. For everyone that had bet on HTML5, it was our “oh shit” moment.
As a result, we discussed all our options, from giving our seed money back to moving our development to native. But none of these options felt right.
When we told our investors what we wanted to do, they knew it was going to be a tough road. But one VC stood up: Jed Katz at Javelin Venture Partners. He not only had our backs, but gave us $3M more and helped us get an additional $1M from Samsung to make sure we could do it right. I think the reason he backed us was that he knew we had the most important thing that any startup could have: a match between our life experiences, our passion, and our mission. He also saw that we were solving a major pain point that almost every mobile and web developer was experiencing. With Jed’s support, we started the long walk of our new mission. That’s when we truly became Famo.us.
With our experience guiding our thinking, we broke down the core problem into two areas:
The layout engine in a browser is a black box designed to render a text document with links. It’s not accessible and it’s not designed to render apps or games. If you’re not creating a document, it’s the wrong tool for the job.
The CSS3 animation engine is both a black box and woefully underpowered. Compared to modern console games, which use a 3D physics engine, CSS3 was not sufficient to produce natural or complex animations. In CSS3, Transitions can only have single Bezier curve segments, animations cannot be intercepted, and most importantly, there was no way to extend these features. Again, it was the wrong tool for the job.
Rather than convince investors of our vision, we decided that we needed to find a really big VC with same vision we had. One that could help us build a business model to support our mission and company goals.
I truly want us all to experience this success together. Look for future posts on what we are doing with the money and how we plan to make money to support our mission.
If anyone has questions, comments, or wants to help us be the good stewards we need to be for this project, please feel free to contact me. My email is email@example.com.