PALM DESERT, Calif. — The American Idol-style demos haven’t even started yet at the DEMO convention, where I arrived this afternoon, and already the clamoring PR machine is in full effect. Most of the 68 companies here have put their ‘message’ onto the wire already, and like at CES, there’s major media overload for anyone trying to find any insights.
That’s why, as soon as I settled in, I decided to grab some time with one of the more interesting sounding startups at the show — DARTdevices. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company founded in 2003 has created software that helps devices like mobile phones, laptops and set-top boxes easily share applications and content over a connection. “Enabling software,” DART CEO Rich Mirabella calls the startup’s flagship DARTplayer, which sits on a device and makes it interoperable with other DART-devices.
Since the startup’s solution sounds a lot like Motorola’s visions in this arena, it’s perhaps not such a surprise that the large handset manufacturer (through Motorola Ventures) invested $2.8 million in a Series A round into DART sometime last year. Previously DART had raised $1.6 million from CEO Mirabella and CTO Dan Illowsky, along with private investors. The 15-employee company is also looking to start raising a Series B in the second quarter of this year.
DARTdevices is the brain child of Mirabella, who was a founder of GLOBEtrotter Software (sold to Macrovision for $700 million), and Illowsky, cofounder of Storymail. The two said that ‘DART’ stands for ‘Dan and Rich’s Toys’ but I’m really hoping they were kidding on that one. They’ve spent the last three plus years building the software, and are now working with embedded device makers, service providers, and application developers to get its DART ecosystem onto devices and into the market.
The way the system works is that the company’s DARTPlayer software is embedded or downloaded onto a device and exposes the characteristics of the hardware — communications channel, size of screen, input mechanisms, etc. The Player software connects the device to other devices that have the Player software, regardless of how incompatible the standalone devices normally are. Now the connected devices can run other applications that DART has built, like content-sharing applications, muli-player gaming software and social media sharing services, which the company plans to release over the next year.
I can see a few hurdles in the plan. One will be getting the Player software on the devices to begin with, though having Motorola in its corner is a big win on the mobile front. The other difficulty might be in trying to develop applications (like the social media-sharing apps) while also building and deploying its core Player software. It seems like these two tasks require rather different skill sets.
Also DART’s ideas are so grandiose — connect all devices, over any network, using our software — that it’s a win-big or fall flat scenario. At CES, Ed Zander was laying out similar connected device dreams, but using Motorola’s own software and services — so I guess it’s not too shocking that Moto would see a good bet in DART.
(That’s Rich on the left, Dan on the right in the photo by Katie.)