Like a lot of the bright digital developers and marketers building small app businesses around Philadelphia these days, Jason Angelides used to work at Traffic.com, the Malvern-based, U.S.-backed highway-traffic digital-reporting firm (owned in succession by Navteq, Nokia and now Utah-based Matchbin).
Toward the end of his Traffic.com stint, in the mid-2000s, "we were trying to make it into a consumer brand," Angelides told me, from his new office at start-up OneTwoSee, across the street from Comcast headquarters in Center City Philadelphia.
His OneTwoSee partner Chris Reynolds was at the time heading a busy effort to add Traffic.com apps to mobile phones. The services were hugely popular, but especially after the Nokia takeover in 2007 "we understood we were moving toward free apps, and the writing was on the wall," Angelides told me.
It's one thing to build a popular app. But how do you make it pay? "The tech evolves so much faster than the business and technical ability to adapt the industry," said Angelides, laughing.
"The ad sales organizations, some are very sophisticated, but there's a step that hasn't happened yet: connecting the dots," said Reynolds. Video companies get it that smartphones don't compete with media screens -- they supplement them: people use both at the same time -- but they haven't yet figured out how to use the different media to connect and support paid advertising and services that will make users welcome the ads.
"Big organizations are spread out. They'll have a digital team, a spot advertising team, other teams, and in many cases the teams don't talk. We took a step back and said, 'How do you connect multiple screens at the same time from an advertising perspective?"" Reynolds added.
"The first thing is providing a meaningful experience," said Angelides. "We're here to support the NBA, Major League Baseball, the NHL, with a companion or second-screen experience during the game, to complement the broadcast. We figure more than 70 percent of people have a connected device in their hands while theyr watching the game. They're media multitasking."
OneTwoSee's goal is to make it easier for viewers to look up player stats, learn more about player injuries as they happen, "create a comprehensive expereince that exists on mobile, tablet and PC, that is not distracting, and giving them what they can't otherwise get," said Angelides.
For hockey games, where it's notoriously hard to see the whole rink on a screen, "we have a line-by-line matchup and you can link to see who is coming on. You can invite your friend to the game. Follow an analyst. The whole idea is bridging the linear to the digital." And bridging the data to advertisers, and back. OneTwoSee calls this "companion viewing."
The company has been backed so far by a $300,000 "friends and family" investment round and a $625,000 "seed round" backed by state-funded Ben Franklin Technology Partners and Robin Hood Ventures for OneTwoSee's prototype baseball project. A second $625,000 "bridge" round is to lead to a first venture-capital $2.5 million round.
There's a team of half a dozen programmers; sales chief BilL Freston is a veteran of Sony Music and Contol Room; CTO Stuart Farber was a tech guru at Motorola and Music Choice. "We are cash flow positive," projecting a run rate of $1 million/year by next fall, says Reynolds. Fundraising in New York has been encouraging, he added ."Comcast is working with us. They're a great partner."