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Friday, December 21, 2012

Web Service Raises $7 Million to Automate Your Life

IFTTT, the nifty Web service that offers a way to automate tasks online, just got a nice holiday present: a significant chunk of change from the venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz, NEA and Lerer Ventures.

The company said on Thursday that it had raised $7 million in a Series A round of venture capital, in addition to the $2 million in seed financing it raised in January.

Linden Tibbets, the chief executive and one of the founders of IFTTT, said his first order of business would be to hire more people.

“FIrst and foremost, it's going to be about expanding the team,” Mr. Tibbets said. Right now, IFTTT has eight employees. Mr. Tibbets would like to double that in 2013.

But the company's second order of busin ess is perhaps its most important: making the service more palatable to a broader audience.

“The way to do that isn't building a complex tool,” Mr. Tibbets said. “It's building a simple one that people can understand and use very quickly.”

Right now, IFTTT (pronounced “lift” but minus the l) has tasks, called “recipes,” that appeal to fairly tech-savvy users. For example, popular recipes can comb through Craigslist for a particular listing and e-mail those listings as they appear, or send notifications each time a new book is added to Amazon's list of free e-books.

But Mr. Tibbets has his eye on expanding IFTTT's catalog of recipes to include more user-friendly functions.

“There's going to be e-commerce alerts, flight tracking and deal finding,” Mr. Tibbets said. “Within 20 seconds of signing into IFTTT for the first time, you'll find something that interests you.”

The company is also looking to branch out into the physic al world. IFTTT has already teamed up with Belkin around that company's line of WeMo devices, which let people wirelessly control home electronics from anywhere. And IFTTT plans to do more in the coming months.

“I think people are starting to get that connecting traditional things like light bulbs and home electronics to the Web makes sense, and it's something they want and will pay for,” he said. “It's exciting to see IFTTT emerge at the center of that.”

More than 2.5 million recipes have been created on IFTTT, according to the company. Of those, 700,000 are available for public examination. Each day, three million to four million tasks set up through IFTTT are run.To date, more than 600 million recipes have been executed through it.