20. June 2012–
"You're going to have a hard time convincing a Ron Conway to move to Berlin," wrote German investor Paul Jozefak in early September on his blog. According to Berlin's biggest headline today, it's not quite as difficult to get him to invest.
Today, the Berlin-based messaging platform Moped closed a $1 million seed round with Ron Conway's SV Angel, Twitter shareholder and major NY-incubator Betawork, and Lerer Ventures. Joined by Earlybird, the round will support the startup's ﬁrst mobile app version for the iPhone (which launched in the app store just yesterday).
International confidence rises in Berlin startups
SV Angel, LV, and Betawork are among the top selections for Berlin startups seeking international disruption. Betaworks was the original investor in Summize and TweetDeck, both of which were acquired by Twitter (where Betaworks is now a shareholder). Beyond its typical $150,000-200,000 investment, the NY-based incubator is known to closely support "companies it views as core to its vision." So far, successfully-mentored companies include such names as bitly, Chartbeat and SocialFlow. Ron Conway has invested in game changers such as Google, Ask Jeeves, Paypal, and Lerer Ventures in American startups ranging from Pair to PandoDaily.
The shared confidence in Moped speaks highly of the team's potential. The three American investors recently linked arms in early May for Pair's $4.2 million seed round. In March, SV Angel and Lerer Ventures invested $2 million in one Princeton dropout's group blogging platform Branch. Like Deerman, Josh Miller and his co-founders built their initial prototype on top of the Twitter platform. Soon after, they partnered with Blogger and Twitter with the Obvious Corporation, and have since moved their office from the Valley to New York for the summer.
Does this mean @mopedlabs is #USbound?
Though the Alabama-born founder Schuyler Deerman insists that "Berlin is home," funding from such major American outlets has occasionally led startups to migrate toward its glittery coasts, or otherwise into transatlantic straddle. After receiving seed funding of $910,000 (also led by Lerer and SV) last week, the Belgian microblogging platform Checklist decided to relocate to New York in order to "better tackle the (distracted, busy) market of the US". Both Gidsy and SoundCloud have opened offices in the Valley since receiving their major Berlin injections.
Since our visit to the Moped office (and Deerman's home) in September, the team has since grown to six, all of whom are engineers. "They're so focused," says Earlybird VC and mentor Ciaran O'Leary, "I joke that they're 'all the way out in Wedding' because you don't see them out too much. They know exactly what they need to get done."
For now, they're reimagining messages from here
For those who don't know, Moped is a private messaging platform that lets you send SMS-speed, IM-like messages with traceable hashtags (#s) and @s. Users login via Twitter and direct message each other by @-mentioning the intended recipient(s). "For people who have those ten close friends that you're always communicating with, the service quickly becomes indispensable," said O'Leary who has worked with Deerman on and off over the past year to shape the product for launch.
The distinguishing factor for us is that it's integrated with Dropbox, which means (unlike with What'sApp) users can share big ﬁles within their messages. A Chrome extension enables users to start conversations from anywhere on the Internet.
To sign up to Moped from the web, go here. If you have an iPhone, just download the app and sign up directly (no need for a special link.)