LiveScribe secures $10 million in extra venture funding

LiveScribe released a press release a little back saying they had secured an extra $10 million in venture funding.  Wow!  Lets hope they put it to good use.

It does raise the question on how well LiveScribe are going.   I have no concrete data.  They have lots of pen outlets (some major retail stores, like OfficeWorks down here in Australia).  But on the forums there is a mix of people loving the product to sending it back due to faults.  I guess its not surprising to hear lots of the extremes – the average user probably would never bother to post.  Not knowing how many units they have sold, I don’t know if the return rate is high or not.  But if they were doing super well, why would they be seeking more venture buy in?  Every venture dollar is a bit more of the company you are giving away or have to pay back (with interest).  Hopefully they think the injection will speed things up – and I certainly agree they need to speed up.  They seem to continually slip on their software delivery target dates.

How did they convince the venture people to give them more money when the economic outlook is so gloomy at present?  I would guess its based on all the awards the pen is winning.  For example they just won Macworld 2009 best of show award.  This is slightly amusing to me as they have still only released a beta of the Mac desktop release, and its known to be buggy.  The official release was due out a few days back, but was delayed by a few weeks the day before it was meant to be released.  Needless to say this annoyed quite a few Mac users.  But hey, Mac users are not that vocal are they?  Their web site lists lots more awards the pen has won.

What will LiveScribe do with the money?  My hope is they beef up their software team.  I think the pen has a lot of potential, but the current software has lots of missing features, the SDK for writing penlets still cannot talk to the outside world, and so on.  The software is clearly the limiting factor at present.  Some may say my perspective is clouded by the fact I would like to write some real applications for the pen but cannot due to lack of information, but there are numerous other posts on their forums now complaining about the software quality.  At least they have an automatic download system and so can upgrade the software for their current user base.  One advantage software has over hardware!

So LiveScribe, if you are listening, looking forward to accelerated development with the new funds.  I would strongly recommend investing in a few top notch and experienced software people.  Good luck!

One comment

  1. Hi Alan,
    I have some insight that I’ll share with you but I’ll email you.

    You’re right about the mixed sentiment. Because I work at the coal face with the pen I get to talk to many of the Australian customers (like yourself). In some cases people love the technology but want it to do more. In other cases, little annoyances (like the paper size) tend to become major issues.

    There are a number of known issues that we (Smartpen) have tried to be open and honest about with our community. We seem to be providing a lot of support to those customers who purchased from Officeworks because Officeworks offer no post-sales support. This pen is still in it’s infancy so everybody needs to be a little patient as it matures.

    Probably my biggest criticism (and one I’ve communicated to them on a number of occassions) is the fact they don’t seem to take the forums seriously. Because of this Smartpen is in the process of launching an Australian community to cover end users and developers. We’ll be collaborating with the APAC master distributor BigAnt on this initiative also so that we can tie in their knowledge base with our local one.

    I’ll keep you posted as to when we’ll launch this.



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