Jake Levine, most recently the general manager of Digg, is hoping to build devices that change the way we interact with the Internet, and he’s raised $1.7 million in seed funding to make that happen.
The Internet is a beautiful place, full of beautiful things. Yet our ability to enjoy those things is constrained to one of 30 browser tabs, or to a tiny 4” screen with whom we have a tortured and unrelenting relationship. We are overwhelmed by content, drowning in conversation, shouting at one another, flailing directionless.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Our technology is of our own design, and we can change it. We can design a device which affords the time and space to enjoy the beautiful Internet.
I spoke to Levine yesterday, and he offered a few more details about Electric Objects’ plans. He said there are four main pieces that the company is working on: There’s the Internet-connected display itself, which he said will “probably” be a 23-inch screen. There will be “community applications”, where people can find and share different media. There will be a store where artists and designers to sell their own content. And there will be an open API, allow outside developers to integrate their products with the Electric Objects display.
While discussing the idea, Levine acknowledged that he has to adjust the pitch depending on who he’s talking to. For less tech-centric folks, he pitches it as the digital equivalent of a picture frame, though he thinks there will be more unique uses possible. He added that it’s probably “the weird and crazy stuff that’s most interesting to my investors.”
And despite emphasizing a fairly open and experimental approach, Levine also said that Electric Objects is going to be “pretty disciplined about constraining it to things that don’t demand your attention” — so, for example, you won’t be seeing TV shows on the platform.
I was also a little surprised to hear that Levine, who has been focused on the news business in the past few years (while at Betaworks, he managed News.me, and then Digg), is working on a hardware startup.
Levine noted that he’s not working on this alone, with Bill Cowles working on the industrial design and Zoë Salditch focused on artist and community relations. And he said that “all the stuff I talked about, information and feelings of anxiety that people feel on the Internet, it’s not new” — and thanks to new hardware capabilities and lowered costs, now is the time to address them with a startup.
The funding was led by RRE Ventures and First Round Capital, with participation from SV Angel, Dennis Crowley, Alberto Ibarguen, Scott Belsky, Kal Vepuri, Red Sea Ventures’ Scott Birnbaum, Rich Greenfield, and Flybridge’s Matt Witheiler, as well as previous investors Betaworks, Strauss Zelnick, Nate Westheimer, and Alex Rosen.
Levine said he’ll also be launching a crowdfunding campaign in the coming months, but in the meantime you can read more about the funding here.