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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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eBay Acquires RedLaser

Comments (15)

Another TechStars company has been acquired.  Well – part of it has been acquired.  Today it was announced that eBay has acquired the RedLaser product from Occipital. The Occipital guys tell the story in their post titled Arrival at the Launchpad.

Occipital’s founders – Jeff and Vikas – are the epitome of bootstrap entrepreneurs.  Every TechStars class seems to have one and Occipital wins the bootstrapper of TechStars Boulder 2008 award.  At the end of the program they had a few chances to raise money but weren’t happy with the valuations so decided to hunker down and just bootstrap things.  They reinvented themselves several times until they launched RedLaser which has been a runaway hit (over two million copies sold to date.)  As RedLaser took off, they had another set of interesting investment offers but no longer have any need for outside capital.

While they were on their way to creating an interesting mobile ecommerce company, they wanted to work on a much bigger set of technical challenges than RedLaser in computer vision and augmented reality, their areas of passion and technical expertise.  In their travels they had a few inquires for an acquisition of the company, but really only wanted to sell the RedLaser product, not the entire company.  Fortunately, eBay was very interested in the RedLaser product and the match worked extremely well for both parties.

Given this sale, I expect Occipital is now a long way from ever raising outside capital.  Jeff and Vikas are now extremely well funded, are scaling up a very interesting team, and going after a huge vision. Oh – and RedLaser is now free in the iPhone AppStore.  Congrats to Occipital, Vikas and Jeff!

  • http://StartupTrek.net Steve Bell

    Congratulations Brad, Vikas Reddy, and all involved!

    We interviewed Vikas not too long ago, and will move it up in the queue to post on our site. Vikas is definitely the "real deal" engineering entrepreneur. And, i use his product regularly – except for on my Android:)

    Great news, not just for Red Laser but also for the dynamic Boulder startup community. Way to go!!

    • http://startuptrek.net Steve Bell

      we'll have our video interview with Vikas up shortly – in the meantime here's a post about it:
      http://startuptrek.net/boulder-techstars-startup-

      FYI, Dirk – Red Laser is one of the most useful, and most downloaded applications ever written for the iPhone. It pays for itself ($1.99) on the first day you download it – because it allows you to price-shop anything with a bar code.

      Study up, Dirk.

  • Dirk

    so u write this article about RedLaser, good job, but WTF is RedLaser? might want to mention WTF it is the future

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      It's an extremely popular bar code scanner / mobile ecommerce app for the iphone.

      • http://startuptrek.net Steve Bell

        what's unique about it, is that some versions of the iPhone are unable to focus on bar codes — they lack a Macro photography mode. So RedLaser has "IP", intellectual property, signal processing which brings the bar code into focus. That's easier on the Android phones, but on some iPhones it's an extremely difficult signal processing problem. There are many other aspects to the solution of "looking up" competitive products from a bar code – which databases to query, whether there are legal issues, etc – that this class of application has to deal with and overcome.

      • http://sco.tt/ Scott Yates

        That was a very restrained response, Brad.

        If "Dirk" would have just clicked one of the many links you provided, or if he was one of the 2 million people who had downloaded the app, or if he was one of the gazillion people who had seen it in action during the Apple commercial, he wouldn't have needed to ask such a question. Even if he forgot, there's no need for him to ask in such a rude way.

        Anonymous commenters always have and always will annoy me…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jrpowers Jeffrey Powers

    Thanks for the great post on us and our bootstrap story. Very accurate, but I'd add that roughly half of our trajectory so far has been from decisions with ample alternative routes. By and large, those decisions were the product and technology decisions. But as far as running the business itself goes, we've been flying by the seat of our pants, carving out the only path that would keep the company alive. We genuinely did want to raise some money post-Techstars, but the options for doing so were next to nil. Failure was not an option, so we had no choice but to engineer our way to profitability despite the sexier things we really wanted to engineer. Now we're finally back to where we were in the fall of 2008 with an obnoxiously difficult project ahead of us, but this time a little less naive and a little more proven.

    • http://sco.tt/ Scott Yates

      My hunch is that "failure" to raise funds will go down as one of the great victories of your life and the life of Vikas, even though I'm sure it didn't feel like it at the time.

      We can't wait to see what's next for your company, Jeff. We are pulling for you. You certainly seem to be assembling a world-class team!

      • http://intensedebate.com/people/jrpowers Jeffrey Powers

        Thanks Scott! It was pretty painful at the time, but so far we've been lucky in turning failures around. The new additions to the team are definitely world-class, not to mention two of them happen to be sourced from around the world, too :)

    • PhilipSugar

      Jeff, I've used your situation as an example http://www.justanentrepreneur.com of why it doesn't have to be either I raise outside money or I'm not successful.

      I've raised money, not raised money, I'm not opposed to either……both can be right or wrong depending on the situation.

      I am really happy for your success.

  • inboulder

    You left out the most important bit: how much?

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld Brad Feld

      eBay doesn't want to disclose the amount. But it was a very nice transaction.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/philipcohen philipcohen

    RedLaser won't do eBay any good: due to eBay’s constant fee increases, their prices are no longer the best available. Merchants surely aren’t going to direct buyers to eBay when they can direct them to their own sites.

    Why would anyone want buy something that is probably going to direct buyers away from their principal source of revenue? Sounds like another “Skype” purchase to me. Oh, sorry, I forgot, PayPal is going to be eBay’s major growth area in the future. Oh yeah?

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/philipcohen philipcohen

    Draft Media Release—Confidential

    “It is with very great sadness that eBay’s Chief Headless Turkey, John Donahoe (aka “Peter Principle”—among many other derogatory terms), announces the probable demise of eBay’s most ugly daughter, PayPal. PayPal is about to be stricken by particularly virulent strains of Visa+CyberSource and Mastercard open platform, aggravated by an insurmountable lack of direct financial institutions participation and a great deal of PayPal user/merchant dissatisfaction, particularly with respect to PayPal’s grossly unfair, “all responsibility avoiding” UA, primitive risk management processes, and totally unprofessional, buyer-biased, fraud-facilitating, transactions mediation.

  • http://intensedebate.com/profiles/philipcohen philipcohen

    “PayPal’s health may therefore be expected to deteriorate and, if ultimately not completely incapacitated, will most likely be eventually confined to its mandatory offering on what little there will be by then left of the Donahoe-devastated eBay marketplaces. There is no cure for this condition, and the “eBafia Don” is particularly saddened by the inevitable presumption that it is unlikely that PayPal will be able to continue to underpin eBay’s sagging bottom line in the future.”

    Also, in Australia, unlike all other payments processors operating here, PayPal has declined to sign up to the payments processors’ “Code of Conduct”. User beware!

    A detailed examination of and prognosis for PayPal (including a further link to the “PayPal Nightmare Tour”) at http://www.auctionbytes.com/forum/phpBB/viewtopic

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