There’s a good deal of buzz today about our latest Techstars investment in Ello and we’re really excited to be co-leading their Series A financing along with Foundry Group. However, this isn’t our first investment in Ello. We’ve actually been investors since January when we participated in their seed round along with Fresh Tracks Capital, eight months before Ello even launched their private beta. If you’re on Ello, you can read my partner David Cohen’s thoughts on our seed investment here. We invested then for the same two simple reasons we’re re-upping today:
1) We believe that most people want an online social experience free from a continual barrage of ads and the risk of having so much deeply personal data sold to 3rd parties.
2) We’ve gotten to know Paul over the last few years and believe that he’s the type of person Steve Jobs was describing when he narrated this in 1997. Simply put, Paul’s crazy. Crazy enough to believe that he can change the world. For us, he’s the type of entrepreneur we yearn to work with:
Can Ello succeed without selling out to advertisers? That remains to be seen. Will Ello sell out to advertisers? Absolutely not. In fact, we’ve signed and support the Ello charter which expressly prohibits this. Our investment is based 100% in our belief that people are willing to pay for a better online social experience. How that manifests itself will be determined over the months to come. One thing’s for sure: Paul’s been quoted many times saying “We’ll either build a business that doesn’t rely on third party advertising or the selling of user data or we won’t build a business.” As investors, we’ve signed up for that.
Ello has become a lightning rod in the media and social streams the last few weeks. It seems half the people absolutely love it and the other half can’t help scorning it because of its minimalist design and sometimes wonky user experience. One thing’s for sure, everyone’s certainly talking about it! For us, that reinforces the notion that people are hungry for a better online social experience. To those that are questioning the functionality and sparse feature set, remember that today, Ello is still a beta version. The mass exodus from Facebook was unexpected and the team is working feverishly to handle the deluge of new members. There’s a rich and exciting product roadmap driven by feedback from early users and the capital from this financing will allow the company to secure the human and technical resources necessary to roll these out at scale. We’re confident that in the months to come, the Ello experience will reflect what many people are searching for in an online social network.
Our investment will also allow me to work closely again with Seth Levine from Foundry Group. We became great friends when we were on the board of Lijit together and I’m excited to work closely with him again to help bring Paul as many resources as possible in building this exciting company. You can read Seth’s thoughts about Ello here.
I really hope you’ll take some time to come experience Ello. Personally, I really enjoy the simplicity and open space which lends itself to a beautiful visual experience. If you do, I hope you’ll connect with me, I’m @marksolon.