Pushbullet, Beloved by Users, Shoots for Fresh Funding

Ryan OldenburgPushbullet, a San Francisco-based, six-person software startup whose free app makes it easy for users move notifications, links, and files between devices, is announcing $1.5 million in seed funding from General Catalyst Partners, SV Angel, Alexis Ohanian, Garry Tan, Paul Buchheit, and other angel investors.

It’s in the market again, too. As is often the case with today’s startups, Pushbullet is announcing a round that came together some time ago – 10 months ago in this case – as a way to kind of raise its flag. Says founder Ryan Oldenburg, a former Android developer at Hipmunk who formed Pushbullet with several former Hipmunk colleagues: “We don’t need a giant round to power a sales force – just a standard Series A. Everyone here has two jobs and I’d like to start making that not be the case anymore.”

VCs could certainly do worse. Since launching in 2013, Pushbullet says it has distributed “tens of millions” of notifications and transferred hundreds of thousands of links, files, and text snippets across users’ various devices, garnering rave reviews from CNet, Wired, and LifeHacker in the process. Just this morning, GigaOm described it as “one of those rare apps where, once you start using it, you’ll likely begin wondering how you lived without it for so long.”

Now, it’s a matter of raising user awareness, preferably before Apple and Google find other ways to better tie together their operating systems across devices. (With Pushbullet ranked far below the most downloaded productivity apps, according to both App Annie and Android Rank, the race is on.)

We talked with Oldenburg about the company last week.

What compelled you to start Pushbullet?

It started about a year-and-a-half ago. I had a smart phone, but as a programmer, I spent a lot of time working on computers, which traditionally didn’t work with smart phones, nor did anyone think they should. As a result, people were doing odd things, like emailing themselves to get their files on their phone. A world where people have both smart phones and tablets is great, but nobody had been acknowledging the opportunity to make it much better.

How did you know you’d struck on something?

It was just a side project, but it had an unexpectedly awesome reception. The first 15,000 [users] signed up within a couple of weeks without any PR. I just submitted it to Reddit and it struck a nerve.

You then headed to Y Combinator. What did the program do for you?

Y Combinator has a way of making you feel not good enough and like you have to work 10 times harder – which isn’t a bad thing. If you’re the right person [to lead a startup], it makes you want to do what it takes to grow beyond tens of thousands of users to tens of millions. It got us to think much bigger.

How much bigger? Will we see an enterprise version of Pushbullet?

At this point, we’re focused on building it for consumers. But as we get later stage, this [technology] is definitely something that will fit into enterprises and [where we’ll probably get the most financial support]. Dropbox [straddles] both worlds, too, and that model works for us.

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