Timbre App: how an odd investment process yields a promising partnership

 I had the funny / dubious distinction of being a headline item today as Techcrunch announced the funding of concert discovery app Timbre.  Timbre is a simple and beautiful app to help you discover great live music around you.   Matt Peckham over at Time says “Timbre may be the classiest iOS app I’ve ever used”.

Shark Tanking my way into Timbre

The man behind Timbre is Mark Kasdorf.  Mark is the founder of a top class mobile app dev shop in Boston called Intrepid.io.  He also turned the top floor of American Twine building in Kendall into one of the hottest co-working spaces in town, Intrepid Labs, which has Scott Kirsner wondering whether we have ourselves the new hub of the gaming scene developing a stone’s throw from Hack/Reduce and Atlas Venture office.  They’ve done work for our friend and investee Steve Kane at LuckyLabs and shares offices with the happy crew of the Tap Lab, which we also backed.

mark kasdorf

The story of how I got into Timbre is unusal.  When the ever inventive Dave Balter suggested we throw a Shark Tank event in Boston with “live, on stage investment decisions”, I jumped in. 

The actual Shark Tank event turned out to be slightly surreal, starting with Dharmesh Shah using randrange ($20.000, $50.000) or similar to determine his exact investment in Jebbit ($29K) and Coachup ($28k) …  and finishing with Dave Balter and I negotiating with Mark real time on stage and prompting a huge F-Bomb from Nicole Stata as I attempted (and succeeded) in one-upping Boston Seed on deal terms.  It was all for fun of course and we ended up investing exactly the same amount (at the new terms).

 Irrational, me ?

As an outside observer you might think, where exactly does discipline into this kind of investment approach ?  The thing is, we vetted over sixty companies before the event and interviewed over ten finalists before the event took place.  I knew where I was putting my money (kinda).  As Dave McClure would say, yo due diligence ain’t 4 shit anyways.

Still, showmanship aside, it was a bit of a jump into the unknown.

Timbre and the single purpose app

We work with a number of mobile-first or mobile only entrepreneurs, including Snapguide, Cinemagram, the Tap Lab, LuckyLabs, Splitwise and others.  What you’ll find when you look across that group is a collection of generally extremely well designed, single purpose mobile apps.  

A decade ago when you were citing my personal hero Frank Lloyd Wright (“form and function are one“), people looked at you funny, wondering why you wanted things to “look pretty”.  Today of course everyone can talk the lingo and the vast majority of people have embraced the fact that design lies at the heart of every great (online) experience.  To be more specific, design is the act of creating awesome experiences that inspire and move people whilst operating under constraints (physical, regulatory, and so on).

With mobile the constraints are higher and the question I always ask is “what exact behavior are your trying to incentivize with your design and does it serve the experience”.  Mark answers this question well.  

There are a bunch of things I like about Timbre : the design choices are strong, quirky yet highly functional.  It’s refreshingly different from the mainstream and puts the artists and their music at the center of the experience.  Most importantly, it does only one thing but does it really, really well.

There are also a number of questions I cannot answer right now about Timbre as an opportunity.  But that’s cool.  I get to meet Mark and work with him, I get to play with early releases of a beautiful app and I get to be a headline on someone’s blog.  Way to go, Freddie.


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