The consumerization of enterprise services is one of the more persistent trends in the world of IT today, and today it’s gaining yet more ground by way of an acquisition: Familiar, a private photo and video sharing service, has been bought by Evidence.com, a division of Taser. With Taser probably best known for its eponymous stun-guns that police and others use to subdue people, Evidence.com is its law-enforcement-focused software and cloud services operation, which will be using Familiar’s technology, and its existing team of engineers, to develop image capturing, storage and delivery technology for Taser’s wearable devices.
Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed, nor have details about what will happen to Familiar’s existing consumer services. These let users take photos or video stills and clips from their iOS and Android devices (or imported from networks like Facebook and Flickr) and share them with designated friends and family (hence the “Familiar” pun). In turn, these are automatically channeled to these users’ screensavers and digital photo frames. For now, Evidence.com says it “will not continue to operate the Familiar service.”
Indeed, it’s the underlying technology, and the mechanics of how it works, that was of interest to Evidence.com; not a move into consumer services.
“We are thrilled the Familiar team will be joining EVIDENCE.com,” said Jason Droege, President of EVIDENCE.com, in a statement. “With the technology trend of mobility and video becoming essential to public safety agencies’ evidence workflow, the Familiar team’s experience moving video across mobile platforms will accelerate the execution of our mobile and cloud product strategy.”
Yet for now, Familiar will remain operational, with more details to be revealed in the coming weeks, says Marcus Womack, one of the co-founders and the CEO of Familiar. (Among Womack’s other startup credits are iLike, acquired by once-mighty MySpace, where he worked with other Familiar co-founders Mike Bohlander, Ray Fortna and Josh Hepfer; iLike founders Ali Partovi and Hadi Partovi were also investors in Familiar. Hadi is also a board director at Taser, so you might start to see where negotiations may have sparked initially.)
Womack notes that currently Familiar is seeing some 100 million photos pass through its service.
That’s a decent rise from the 21 million it noted last September, when it also announced $1.3 million in seed funding (after a rebrand from Picadee), so why the decision to exit? From what we understand, part of it is down to another, more frustrating, but no less persistent trend in the world of tech — the Series A crunch. For all of its innovative technology, Familiar was one more photo sharing app in a very crowded market with some obvious companies winning big at the moment.
“We were at an inflection point,” Womack tells me. Not commenting directly on Series A fundraising, he notes that “we weren’t growing as we wanted to.”
So conversations started with others. We understand that those who took a look and were interested included Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter. Twitter, we heard from reliable sources, was especially persistent. Why? Perhaps it saw an opportunity to expand its existing image offerings with a new level of sharing to specific groups of followers, say around hashtags. Perhaps it was casting an eye to the fact that one of its big competitors, Facebook, was also interested. Facebook, of course, has such a strong existing play in image sharing and is obviously also cozying up to the same monetizing partners as Twitter. Womack also declined to comment on this aspect of the deal.
In any event, the decision to go with Taser and Evidence.com was for more than simply financial remuneration, Womack tells me.
“Consumer trends are coming to law enforcement,” he says. “If you look at the traditional technology it’s all about the PC, but we’re moving to a post-PC world. There is a big opportunity in the public safety space. It’s largely fragmented tech space. Increased bandwidth and incredible devices — that’s an exciting opportunity.” There is also the second trend of wearables and wearable cameras, which have entered our public consciousness with products like Google Glass.
Womack also believes that the real-world aspect to companies like Taser makes joining them also worthwhile. Taser’s existing camera equipment — because it points to police officers and suspects all knowing they are being recorded — brings about “more civility” amongst all of them. Complaints fell by over 80% and the use of force by over 60% among instances where they have been used, he says.
The move between consumer and enterprise — with a focus especially on government and public sector enterprise — in areas like wearable tech and the software that goes on it is a two-way, revolving door, as a reported deal between Microsoft and Osterhout also demonstrates.
Other investors in Familiar included Greylock Partners, Redpoint Ventures, Index Ventures, Acequia Capital and Allen & Company. In addition to Hadi and Ali Partovi (who are also early advisors and investors in Facebook, Dropbox and Zappos), other angel investors included Nat Brown, Dave Goldberg, Blake Krikorian, Emil Michael, Owen Van Natta.