From Automatic to Zumper: SF Startups Launch Apps, Raise Cash
Tech startup founders are convinced that any human experience can be duplicated—or improved—by translating it into an app. A flurry of Bay Area startups inspired by this creed raised money or introduced new products this week.
—Has your child ever set up a make-believe shop to sell toy snack foods, and implored passing adults to play customer, for hours? Palo Alto, CA-based Osmo supplies an endless line of cartoon animals to fill that role in its new game app, Pizza Co., for kids 5 to 12 years old.
The kit includes physical game pieces—ungarnished pizzas and toppings that can be added according to “orders” given by the hungry lion or hippo that appears on an iPad screen. Osmo’s mirror attachment allows the tablet to recognize the game pieces on the table top before it, including a pizza or the toy coins offered to customers as change. The animals protest indignantly if kids get the order wrong or shortchange them.
Educational game maker Osmo says Pizza Co. teaches children an array of skills, including basic math, entrepreneurship, purchasing, rudimentary bookkeeping, and satisfying the animals without going broke. Maybe these kids will go on to translate even more of our daily routines into apps.
—Zumper is trying to eliminate all those physical tasks involved in the arduous human experience called apartment-hunting, like driving around and filling out applications. The San Francisco-based startup is trying to wrap as many of those tasks as possible into an app, so you can maybe find a new home just by tapping on your mobile phone with your feet up on the couch.
The company announced a $17.6 million Series B funding round led by Breyer Capital and Foxhaven Asset Management. Other investors participating included Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Goodwater Capital.
Zumper says it displays a million apartment and house listings a month, nationwide. Hopeful renters can lodge their credit checks, rental history, and background checks with Zumper, and press an “Instant Apply” button to send the information to landlords in a bid for the listings they like.
—San Mateo, CA-based Reali also raised money for a real estate marketplace where househunters can bid online. Reali focuses on the process of buying or selling a home, as a self-described “full service real estate broker” within an app.
The company aims to make transactions more efficient by matching buyers and sellers, while reducing agents’ commissions. Reali says it launched its listings this week in Bay Area communities, including Palo Alto and East Palo Alto, and plans to extend the service to other Silicon Valley cities shortly.
Reali announced a seed financing round that raised $2 million from investors including Joe Montana, other angels, and Dragonfly Investments Group, which was founded by Reali’s co-founders, Amit Haller and Ami Avrahami.
—In spite of all the apps that let us manipulate the universe from our couches, many of us still drive around to do stuff. But cars have their own apps now. This week San Francisco-based Automatic, which connects cars to the Internet, launched a less expensive version of its system that collects data such as trip logs and sends it to a smartphone app.
GPS-equipped Automatic Lite plugs in under the car’s dashboard and records trip mileage that employers can reimburse; taps into signals of engine trouble; and directs drivers to the cheapest nearby gas station. The new product costs about $80. The company’s Automatic Pro costs about $130, and it includes extra features such as crash alerts and car location tracking.
—Verdigris has a mobile app for building managers who need to keep energy costs down. The Mountain View, CA-based startup installs sensors on building mains, panels, and branch circuits to meter power consumption at the level of each office space.
The system can be used to identify faulty equipment such as broken motors; to verify vendors’ claims on energy efficiency; and to plan upgrades, Verdigris says.
The company says it raised a $6.7 million Series A extension round led by St. Petersburg, FL-based engineering and supply chain management company Jabil (NYSE: JBL), joined by Verizon Ventures, Stanford StartX Fund, and previous angel investors. Verdigris has now raised a total of $16 million.
Data from Verdigris’s energy-use monitoring is sent to the cloud via Wi-Fi or Verizon’s cellular network.