With $30 Million More in Hand, IFTTT Looks to the Internet of Things
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- August 28th, 2014
One ambitious start-up wants to reroute the plumbing of the consumer Internet. Now it has the money to try to make it happen.
The start-up, called IFTTT (pronounced like “gift” without the “g”), announced on Thursday it had raised $30 million in funding, its largest round yet, from the venture capital firms Norwest Venture Partners and Andreessen Horowitz.
If nothing else, IFTTT’s service is rather clever. The title is an acronym — short for “If This Then That” — which neatly describes the function of the product. It is essentially a giant switchboard to connect disparate services, anything from Facebook to text messages to telephone calls. Users can create “recipes” in which an action on one service can trigger an action on another entirely different service.
Earlier this week, for example, I connected my Instagram and Dropbox accounts to IFTTT. I made a recipe that forced IFTTT to upload any new Instagram photo I took to my Dropbox online storage account. More than 100 other Internet services connect to IFTTT, including Twitter and YouTube.
The idea, according to co-founder Linden Tibbets, is to give people more creative control over the many online services they use on a daily basis. So even if your text messaging service, by itself, is not meant to be a sort of alert system for when your friend checks in on Foursquare, the start-up wants to make that sort of remixing possible.
“We’re often repurposing simple objects to fulfill a different purpose and need, like putting a pencil behind your ear when you need to use your hands,” Mr. Tibbets said. “It’s the same with IFTTT. People really deserve this ability to mix and match, and to have the Internet work for them.”
Mr. Tibbets and his brother and co-founder, Alexander, are excited for how people use IFTTT today. Anyone can make IFTTT recipes to use and share with others — 15 million recipes are used on a daily basis — and that number has only increased as more services connect to IFTTT’s platform.
The company also plans to soon introduce its first revenue streams, and will offer a paid version of its product for users who want to connect different accounts to the service. A social media manager for a company, for example, could connect multiple Twitter accounts to IFTTT and set up recipes specific to each account.
The brothers are most excited, however, about the next phase of services coming to the platform: Internet-connected hardware devices.
More commonly known as the Internet of Things in tech industry parlance, companies like Philips and SmartThings have started to manufacture Wi-Fi-connected products — like light bulbs, door locks and Crock-Pots — effectively allowing people to control what goes on in their home when they aren’t actually there.
So with IFTTT, I could trigger a connected SmartThings door to automatically lock at 9 a.m. each morning after I leave my house. Or I could set another time-based trigger to turn on my lights and start my coffee pot at 6 a.m. every day.
“The way we see the Internet of Things playing out, there’s going to be a need for an operating system that’s detached from any specific device,” Linden Tibbets said. “What we’re doing now is the foundation for that.”
While IFTTT’s dream is for all companies to play nicely together via its open platform, some companies thrive on closed systems of interconnectivity, requiring its users to purchase mainly their products for them to work together best. Apple is the best example of this; the company encourages people to buy an iPhone and an iMac and use iCloud for online storage needs.
But IFTTT and at least some of its partners are hedging their bets on a different philosophy, where interconnected devices are ultimately good not only for consumers, but also for the companies.
“We believe that platforms win every time,” said Andrew Rosenthal of Jawbone, a popular connected speaker, headset and health tracking device company based in San Francisco. “We lean on platform partners like IFTTT to build for that last extra mile that we haven’t focused on.”
With the new capital, Mr. Tibbets expects to double his staff of 21 employees over the next six months, focusing on expanding the business development and design departments. Josh Goldman, a partner at Norwest Venture, will join IFTTT’s board of directors.