FiftyThree raises $15 million to build the Office suite of the future
A couple years ago, Microsoft vet Georg Petschnigg set out to redefine the way we draw, paint, and sketch on the iPad. He assembled FiftyThree and began working on Paper. “We’ve just burned down our savings on this,” we said, “to build tools we could use every day.” Paper caught on, and was downloaded 1.5 million times within two weeks. Today, Paper has hit 8 million downloads and has been used to create over 80 million pages. The company has expanded to 22 people, but it still works out of Petschnigg’s Tribeca apartment building.
Today, FiftyThree has announced the next step on its journey, a $15 million Series A round of funding led by Chris Dixon at Andreessen Horowitz, and joined by a number of other high profile investors like Ron Conway, Highline Ventures, Thrive Capital’s Josh Kushner, and Twitter/Square founder Jack Dorsey.
The company’s long-term goals, as well as its numerous awards (such as Apple’s “iPad App Of The Year”), are all part of the company’s appeal, according to investor Chris Dixon. FiftyThree began as a way to help “creators,” as Petschnigg says, but quickly evolved into a workshop for re-imagining common digital tools. A few examples are Paper’s color mixer, its undo gesture, and its Expressive Ink Engine, which simulates real paint and ink on a digital surface.
Petschnigg won’t share details on the company’s future products, but reveals that collaboration will be critical to the future of Paper and other upcoming products. “When you look at the web today and what social media has done by giving everyone a voice, or how Wikipedia has given us the ability to recall information—we really haven’t figured out how to develop better ideas and new ideas together,” he says.
Petschnigg has quietly assembled an all-star team of hardware designers for an undisclosed project, including John Ikeda, who designed every Xbox 360 accessory, Jim Koo, ex-director of mechanical engineering at Sonos, and Audrey Louchart, who designed Microsoft’s Arc Mouse. All this, and FiftyThree has only shipped an iPad app.
Accorsing to Petschnigg, FiftyThree will debut “additional business models” at some point in the future. “When you look at the space we’re in (which has existed since 2008), we haven’t even seen something like Office emerge on the tablet side,” he says. “Our goal is to build essentially a suite of mobile tools for creativity,” which means FiftyThree has just begun. Microsoft just debuted Office for iPhone, but an app designed for desktop productivity—ported to mobile—doesn’t seem to be what Petschnigg has in mind. “It’s about imagining the right solution,” he says, “and that takes time.”