An app developer generating buzz for its small group-sharing model landed a $750,000 investment from Connecticut Innovations, part of a $1.5 million round of funding that will allow deets Inc. to add more programmers and designers.
The 18-month-old company, founded by Luke Scott and Linda Miller, moved its offices from South Norwalk to Westport in March. Scott and Miller both have roots in Westport.
Miller, who also has a house in the Santa Barbara suburbs and works there at times, has been raising money from investors in California and on East Coast. The company’s chief financial officer and chief operations officer work in California. The other nine existing deets Inc. employees — programmers and designers — are in Connecticut. The company intends to hire five new employees, in Connecticut, with the CI money.
“We consider ourselves a Connecticut company,” Scott said, but added, “There are benefits for presenting yourselves as a bicoastal company.”
Scott, 40, who also is a partner at a Westport marketing company Madison/Mott, said it’s the flipside of a company like Kayak, where the marketing and executives are in Norwalk, but the programming talent is in the Boston area. “That’s what we think is really one of the more unique pieces,” Scott said, as he said most companies go with “programming wizards in Silicon Valley and management in Connecticut.”
Kayak was recently bought for $1.8 billion by Priceline, which is also headquartered in Norwalk. Miller joined Priceline when it was still a small startup, but no longer works there.
The deets app was on the “What’s Hot” list in the productivity category in the Apple apps store. The writers of the free app, which has nearly 10,000 users since its launch in August, are hoping to capitalize on the “anti-social sentiment that’s out there,” Scott said.
Is the “What’s Hot” list curated by Apple, or based on the pace of downloads? Scott said no one knows for sure, but he thinks it’s a combination of both.
The app is seen as a productivity tool because it facilities message sharing for a specific group of workers, parents of Little League players or other small groups, getting them information cleanly and quickly. It also provides smooth contact synchronization.
The philosophy of deets, Scott said is: “Get the hell off your phone and get on with your life.”
In a world where even couples in restaurants and bars are staring at their individual phones instead of talking to each other, is this the next trend?
“We really in some ways are going against the grain,” he said.
Google Plus also tried to capitalize on the backlash against too little privacy and too much commercialization on Facebook, and while it built up a huge user base quickly, it has not changed the trend of people sharing lots of information about their tastes and activities.
Three months ago, deets hired two men to work on an Android version of the app, which they hope to release in January. Over the next six months, they hope to release an app with additional options that will cost something, though the free app will continue to be available, and will launch paid versions for businesses. The businesses could use deets to send messages to customers or to help teams communicate internally.
Because deets Inc. has no sales yet, it is starting its next round of fundraising, to lengthen the runway until it starts making enough revenue to cover its costs, and to hire more people. Scott said they’d like to hire two more product designers, two developers and a project manager, as well as convert some independent contractors to regular employees.
“We’ll add a couple extra bodies quickly, in the next three months,” he said.
Connecticut Innovations, a state-funded organization that aims to nurture technology firms in the state, announced its investment in deets Inc. on Tuesday.
“This company offers a unique application not addressed by current communication networks, and it joins a growing base of mobile technology companies in Connecticut, helping to strengthen our state’s capabilities in this rapidly growing sector,” the statement said.