Meteor, the company behind an application development framework of the same name, today announced $11.2 series A funding from Andreessen Horowitz, with Matrix Partners also contributing. The investment follows Andreessen Horowitz’ record breaking $100 million investment in Github. The Meteor framework is free and open source and can be used for creating rich, Google Docs style applications in the browser. A preview was released last April. The company plans to monetize the product by selling enterprise support and services.
Meteor was founded by ActBlue co-founder Matt DeBergalis, MixApp co-founder Nick Martin and early Asana employee/MixApp co-founder Geoff Schmidt. David Greenspan, who co-founded AppJet (the company behind EtherPad) and went on to work on Google Wave, is another early employee. These are guys who know how to build richly interactive, real-time web apps. And they know painful it can be to develop modern, desktop-like apps for the browser.
It takes a lot of work to build something like Asana, MixApp or Google Wave from scratch. In order to work correctly, these apps have to get browsers to do things they were never designed to do, like send data back and forth in near real time and refresh only certain parts of a page. Companies have to devote extensive engineering resources to solving these problems. The Asana team spent months working on a Meteor-like framework for its own use. Yet the demand for these types of apps is only increasing, especially as companies rely on web technologies to build cross-platform mobile applications. Meteor hopes to cut that valuable development time by providing a number of common, reusable open source parts that can be used both in the browser and on the server.
But is there a business opportunity here? David Skok of Matrix Partners thinks so. He compares Meteor to JBoss, a company that sold to Red Hat in 2006 for $420 million. “When I invested in them in 2002, back when open source was less popular, JBoss had 5 million downloads and was doing $200,000 in revenue per quarter,” Skok says. “We were able to turn that into $65 million in annual revenue in 2006 when it sold to Red Hat.”
To get there, Skok says Meteor will have to convince IT operations that Meteor is ready for the enterprise, because they’re the ones with the budget. “Enterprises don’t want to use something they’re not paying for,” Skok says. “They want a throat to choke when things go wrong.”
To get ready for the enterprise, the Meteor team is buckling down on security and authentication, scalability and reliability. Meanwhile the company is surrounding itself with successful open source enterprise veterans. Joining the board is Rod Johnson, co-founder of Spring Source, which commercialized the open source Java framework Spring and was acquired by VMware. Skok will serve as an adviser to Meteor, as will Peter Levine, a partner at Andreessen Horowitz and the co-founder of XenSource, which was acquired by Citrix.
Software development is a hot area for investors right now. In addition to Andreessen Horowitz’ GitHub investment, other related recent investments include Xamarin’s $12 million round of funding, Keen’s round of seed funding and Apigee and Mashery’s latest rounds of funding.