No Longer a One-Man Shop, Read It Later Raises $2.5M
The informatively named content-saving start-up Read It Later, which for most of its four years has been a one-man labor of love and ramen, has raised Series A funding of $2.5 million from Foundation Capital, Baseline Ventures, Google Ventures, Founders Collective and various angels.
Read It Later, which helps users save and sync articles and other material across multiple devices for consumption when they have time, raised the funding in the face of increasing competition from Apple’s upcoming iOS 5 “Reading List,” RockMelt and long-time rival Instapaper.
Founder Nate Weiner said that’s why he raised the funding: after he received acquisition interest from three companies earlier this year, he realized he wants bigger and better things for Read It Later than just being a feature of other people’s products.
“Any of the products that launched this year that are very similar to us tried to pick me up to help them launch that, but nobody had the same vision that I did,” he said.
Read It Later is about “truly ubiquitous content-shifting,” Weiner said. “The future isn’t one consolidated device; it’s screens everywhere.”
And even though his start-up may be small — it now has five employees and 3.5 million registered users — it is available in more ways than any of the competition. Read It Later has official apps on the iPhone, iPad, Android, Firefox and Web, plus many more apps created with its API and 250 more apps with Read It Later integrations including the official Twitter apps. The company currently makes money with optional paid versions but will likely offer subscriptions instead, according to Weiner.
Weiner said that less than one percent of current Read It Later users use the tool to save articles with Safari only, which is the sole functionality Apple will offer in iOS 5. He’s betting that multi-platform and multi-screen content reading and watching is a big opportunity.
On that note, YouTube is already the No. 1 most-saved domain in Read It Later, Weiner said.
Meanwhile, Instapaper, which is iOS only, has more of a focus on content discovery and offline access, Weiner argued. Versus thought leader Marco Arment, the man behind Instapaper, “We’re the quiet giant,” Weiner said. “We’re twice as large.”
The new funding will be used to pay for hires, Weiner said. He’s also rented the company’s first office in downtown San Francisco. “This is the cheapest business in the entire universe, just saving links,” Weiner said. “The office rent is more than our server cost.”
It’s a big change, Weiner added, from Read It Later’s first office — his Minneapolis bedroom, where he had to take the door off the closet in order to fit a desk.
Photo of Nate Weiner courtesy Emily Steffen.