Spark, which is building a software system for internet-connected devices, has raised new funding.
Today, it announced a $US4.9 million Series A funding round on Tuesday led by Lion Wells Capital, O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures, SOSVentures, and Collaborative Fund. The company also accepted funds from a “consortium of strategic angel investors.” This is in addition to the $US567,968 it raised in last year’s highly successful Kickstarter campaign.
The company also announced a new cloud-based operating system for its connected products, called Spark OS.
CEO Zach Supalla said Spark OS is unique as a cloud platform because it’s open source. While Apple has HomeKit, its own platform for internet connected devices, and Android has its own home development tools, Spark wants to be a one stop shop for developers that want to be on both platforms.
“There’s technical and structural advantages [to using Spark] but the biggest and most important thing is that our system is open,” Supalla told Business Insider. “Everyone wants to build their products but everyone’s creating their own ecosystems — like Apple’s HomeKit and Wink, where everyone wants you to play in their world — but you also want to make your product self-sufficient.”
“You don’t want to be an Apple accessory, you want your things to be able to play on their own too. With an open source system, we’re not tying you to our ecosystem, we’re giving you your own ecosystem and you can build your products using Spark to work with iOS and Android and Nest and Wink — all those things — and never be reliant on any of them. You control your own destiny.”
Last June, Spark introduced its Core development kit on Kickstarter to much fanfare, attracting more than 5,500 backers. The Spark Core is a tiny cloud-powered development platform built with a small ARM Cortex M3, a Wi-Fi nodule, and compatibility with the Arduino microcomputer so hackers and programmers can build cool wireless technologies like security cameras, motion detectors, and even remote-controlled cars that all run over Wi-Fi.
Now, a year later, Spark OS is poised to power a new wave of Wi-Fi-enabled products including its Core device, as well as other products currently in the works including Niwa and CleverPet. Spark is also working behind the scenes with a number of big enterprise companies, which could not be named as their products are still in development.
“Spark [Core] was all about development tools, helping people build connected products. But now we’re also figuring out how to deploy connected products,” Supalla told Business Insider. “When you’re shipping 100,000 connected light bulbs or security systems, how does the system work to connect these products to manage them and learn from the data they’re producing and get them to do smart and intelligent things?”
Since last year’s big Kickstarter launch, Spark’s team has grown from four people to 12, and will grow to about 20-25 people within the next few months. Supalla had targeted makers and the growing hobbyist community centered on building things with technology, but said he was surprised to discover that customers wanted to use Spark to deploy across thousands of devices for work and enterprise purposes.
This is a big opportunity for a company like Spark. According to a report from cloud analytics and policy company Netskope, there’s an average of 397 cloud apps per enterprise, but more than 3/4ths of those apps are not “enterprise-ready.” So people are turning to the cloud to get stuff done, but the clouds aren’t quite there yet. Spark hopes to change that.
“There’s a lot of excitement about the Internet of Things, but one of the challenges is that there were no tools upon which to build,” Supalla told us. “A lot of people that come into the space are coming from the web world, where you’re used to frameworks and programming languages so you’re never starting from zero, you’re building upon other layers. Whereas in the Internet of Things, everyone starts from zero, from the ground level, which makes these products really hard and risky. So basically, there’s been a lot of excitement, and we’re taking away a lot of that cost and risk. The time and energy it takes to build a product from scratch, we can potentially cut off 6-9 months off development time and millions of dollars from R&D so you’re not starting from zero.”
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