Earlier this week, Yapp, the New York City-based startup that helps regular folks create customizable mobile apps, announced a round of funding from Kleiner Perkins, North Bridge Venture Partners, Cue Ball, and other individual investors.
Yapp, which was “proudly made in a basement in NYC,” starts with web-based WYSIWYG editor offering themes and features like maps and photo sharing. Consumer use those tools to build an app that can be downloaded by their friends. Yapp’s first product is based around events, helping consumers create individual apps for fund-raisers, parties, weddings, etc. But the company plans on rolling out other templates as well.
Although Yapp declined to discuss the amount, the company, which had been bootstrapped until this seed round, previously filed two Form Ds. One for a $800,000 debt round last July, and one for a $1.25 million debt round last November.
Betabeat chatted with CEO and founder Maria Seidman over Skype to talk about raising funds, wherein we made a surprising discovery.
How did Yapp end up hooking up with a Sand Hill Road firm like Kleiner Perkins? “Long story…. probably need drinks ,” Ms. Seidman. When we enthusiastically accepted, Ms. Seidman warned us that it would have to be “virgin drinks” until July. “I’m preggers!”
This was the first time Betabeat had ever heard of a pregnant founder seeking funds, so naturally we were on the edge of our Skype seat. “Interesting to say the least,” said Ms. Seidman, correcting us, “Pregnancy was not a known factor when we started.” The round closed over a period of time, so Ms. Seidman wasn’t actually pregnant on Sand Hill Road, but she has been during the current launch into private beta. “The fact is,” she noted, “When you are a woman, having babies is part of it for a lot/most people so when people invest in women that has to be part of the equation.”
Did it deter potential investors? “I picked our investors carefully,” she replied. “We generally chose to work with people who we thought shared our values, vision, and passion for the mission. By definition, those investors understand that it’s not about someone’s gender.”
As previous reports about Yapp have noted, the customized apps don’t actually show up in the Apple App Store, but rather through the free YappBox iPhone application or on Android or iOS via the mobile web. But Ms. Seidman maintains that’s not a deterrent. In the case of private events or meetings, users would want it to be private and “not an icon in the App Store,” she said. Besides, she added, with more than 600,000 apps in the store, that’s “not a viable marketing platform anyways.”
Ms. Seidman and her cofounder, Luke Melia, who she met via “founder dating,” aspire for something a little different with Yapp’s user-generated creations–being able to access native features like a phone’s camera or push notifications, but letting the content be updated on the fly.
Both Ms. Seidman and Mr. Melia hail from entertainment company backgrounds. Ms. Seidman was the former vice president of digital distribution at Warner Bros.; Mr. Melia was a former director of software development at Oxygen Media before taking on a CTO gig at WePlay, a social site for sports. Their four-person team also includes “an amazing head of UX/creative director and a senior developer,” she said.
“I wish I’m totally non-technical,” Ms. Seidman said when we asked if she worked on the coding side. “Luke runs the development and I run the business side of things and we meet in between on product and overall strategy.”
During her tenure at Warner Bros, Ms. Seidman said, “The mobile industry was in transition from the Java/Brew-era to the era of apps. So I learned a lot from that. Also, at the core, I am about the consumer. That’s something she has in common with Mr. Melia. “During his time at Oxygen, Luke built technology to help women be more productive, informed, and entertained. He built tech for the average user, not the early adopter.”
We’ll keep the white wine chilled until July, and report back with any juicy details about Sand Hill Road then.