tech

FiftyThree

Steve Jobs predicted that tablet computers would become so dominant that “PCs would become like trucks” – special-purpose industrial devices. Skeptics replied that tablets were only useful for consumption and not creation and therefore couldn’t replace PCs, to which Jobs said:

We are just scratching the surface on the kinds of apps for the iPad…I think there are lots of kinds of content that can be created on the iPad. When I am going to write that 35-page analyst report, I am going to want my Bluetooth keyboard. That’s 1 percent of the time. The software will get more powerful. I think your vision would have to be pretty short to think these can’t grow into machines that can do more things, like editing video, graphic arts, productivity. You can imagine all of these content creation possibilities on these kind of things. Time takes care of lots of these things.

History supports Jobs’ argument. In the past, new user interfaces led to new categories of creation applications. Back in the 70s and 80s, when computers had text-based interfaces, word processors and spreadsheets were invented. In the 80s and 90s, when computers had graphical interfaces, presentation and image editors proliferated. Jobs was simply predicting that historical patterns would repeat.

Today we are announcing that Andreessen Horowitz is leading a $15M Series A investment in FiftyThree, a company whose goal is to build the essential suite of mobile tools for creativity. You might know FiftyThree as the company behind the iPad app Paper. Paper has been embraced by millions of everyday creators, and has won dozens of awards (including Apple’s App of the Year). It is also one of the top grossing iPad productivity apps ever. But this is only the beginning of FiftyThree’s ambitious plans.

The FiftyThree team spent their careers working on breakthrough computing projects, including lead roles on Office, Kinect, Sonos, and the Xbox. Particularly relevant was a project they led at Microsoft called Courier that has been widely praised as a visionary take on tablet computing (unfortunately, Courier was never brought to market).

FiftyThree didn’t need to raise money, but decided that the opportunity was so large that it made sense to accelerate their efforts with additional capital and resources. They’ll be expanding their engineering teams in New York and Seattle, and will broaden their offerings across software, services, and hardware.

I first met the founders in New York in 2011, and have since spent a lot of time with them. I’m convinced that they are one of the most innovative design and engineering teams in the world. In the past, they reimagined how we play games, view images, listen to music, create documents, and more. With FiftyThree, they are rethinking the very way we create and collaborate on ideas. I couldn’t be more excited to be involved.

Categories: tech

32 replies »

  1. Congratulations.

    Paper is an amazing app and it sounds like that’s just FiftyThree’s opening act. I look forward to seeing what else they have up their sleeves.

  2. Congratulations and welcome to office suite space guys!

    We at Bubbles (https://bubbleideas.com) provide an office suite already and are positioned to serve doodling and handwriting via web for the iPads and Desktops – Our idea is that web is sooner or later gonna catch up and that’s when doodling becomes a need under our fingertips.

    Welcome to the club guys, and thanks for this splendid validation of this space… :)

  3. When I was at Intuit in March-April, the figure I heard thrown around was that already 5% of TurboTax Online customers filed on their mobile devices using the non-native web app (and that percentage continues to rise afik). Assuming we’re still in the early adopter phase, which I believe we still are, these types of examples show that Jobs was absolutely right.

    *Not really analogous type of app & user experience, but with ~26M users this is significant to be able to see trends in the wild.

  4. Congrats, and what a great company for Andreessen Horowitz to back. Even for those of us with less-than-natural-born art talent, Paper is a magical tool for creating art. Here’s hoping that the hardware accessories catch up to the beautiful software.

  5. No, Bubbles is a web-app. Supported on the iPad, Wacom Pentab and desktops. We think mobile and iPads are completely different, and have to be treated separately.

    We’re working on native client on top of our web-app to fit the mobile use-case/screen. Stay hooked! :)

  6. Ah, well, may I suggest that you redirect unsupported browsers to a page that describes your product? I understand that I can’t use the product on my iPhone, but I might be interested enough to pull it up on a supported device if I know what the application does.

  7. Excited about the prospects for the product, but also equally excited that they’re opening up their designer-led product dev process for the world to see via its Making Fifty Three blog. I expect that process to be widely adopted and can’t wait to see the fruits of it throughout the industry.

  8. Fantastic! I absolutely love Paper and recommend it to anyone who has an iPad. It is the app that I enjoy using the most – and it has surprised me by providing quite a bit of value as a business tool. I was shocked at how easily I could create visually interesting (and understandable) versions of technical concepts with it.

    I doubted the ability of the ipad with regard to content creation originally. But companies like FiftyThree are really proving that it is possible and can be fun too.

    I’m looking forward to what they’ll innovate on next…

  9. My co-founder, Raj, and I do all of our mocks on Paper. We are super eager to begin writing code and building apps right on the iPad.

  10. Great app with a lot of potential to do more. Their design chops and simplicity will take them to a lot of places.
    I think its a great move for everyone getting in at this stage of funding. Good luck to 53 for making the big leap.

  11. I have never been more excited about mixing colors than when Paper introduced their in-app upgrade. Ideating on users’ feedback without Paper = Insanity.

    Kudos to a fantastic team!

  12. I still love PC as much as I love the old big nokia. I do own some mobile devices, but I don’t feel comfortable using them for work. I can not stand it looking and typing at those tiny devices for hours. So, I still need the big package. For my comfort sake.

  13. Paper is the app that most wows people when they see it being used. I do all my coffee shop “whiteboarding” on it. Congrats to the 53 team and AH.

  14. Funny

    If somebody like Julia Roberts or Natalie Portman had a personal blog where they posted pictures of their vacations or something, would you still take them seriously as actors? Do you think celebrities with personal blogs are less credible and taken le…

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