Remember beepers? Those little clip-on electronics that allowed you to communicate with others without needing to take out your phone? Well, just when we thought smartphones and wearables had made those little pagers obsolete, one company is looking to bring them back.
OnBeep, a San Francisco startup that wants to make a dedicated piece of hardware so groups can talk to each other with the press of a button “without having to fiddle with a smartphone,” as GeekWire’s Blair Hanley Frank put it, has raised $US6.25 million in a funding round led by Avalon Ventures’ Rich Levandov.
“There are countless mobile messaging apps, and none of them give people a way to stay connected to each other without having to look down at their smartphone,” Levandov said in a press release. “We backed OnBeep because we believe they will fundamentally change the way the world communicates.”
OnBeep was cofounded by Roger Wood, a product design and marketing manager for Nextel; Greg Albrecht, previously a senior software engineer at Splunk; and Jesse Robbins, a former Amazon Availability Program Manager and cofounder of Chef, a software tool that’s used to streamline the task of maintaining servers.
Robbins serves as CEO, Wood serves as head of product, while Albrecht is OnBeep’s CTO.
Robbins described the company’s product as one similar to the two-way communicators used in “Star Trek,” but the idea is to help groups of people — like families or companies — communicate with each other in real-time without needing to constantly reach for their smartphone.
The company says the device will pair with a user’s smartphone, but declined to offer details about what the final design will look like or how much it will cost.
Perhaps OnBeep’s product will straddle the line between the clunky pagers of yesteryear and the wearables of tomorrow, which aim to put notifications on our wrists while also offering us potential side benefits, like the ability to track one’s health. Hopefully, OnBeep’s product looks a little more modern than the beepers of old, and there’s a good chance of that happening: OnBeep’s 20-person team consists of former employees from Apple, Google, Northrop Grumman, and Lab126, Amazon’s hardware design lab.
We’ve reached out to OnBeep to learn more about how its product will differentiate itself from typical pagers and beepers, and we’ll update this story if we learn more.
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