OnBeep snags $6.25M to push pretty, heads-up push-to-talk devices

OnBeep co-founder Jesse Robbins

With $6.25 million in new funding under its belt, OnBeep is ready to talk — a bit — about its plans for a new push-to-talk offering.

The company is working on consumer-focused technology that pairs wearable devices (broaches or badges) that the user touches to talk with smartphones. The idea is to enable people to be “out in the world, not looking down at their devices,” OnBeep co-founder and CEO Jesse Robbins said in an interview. Robbins co-founded Opscode, now known as Chef, in 2008.

The OnBeep wearables connect via Bluetooth to users’ iOS or Android devices. An easy interface will let you set up communications groups among your friends and associates.

Old-world push-to-touch products from Nextel and others were heavy-duty, rugged devices. “We wanted to learn from that world but focus on consumers and what people can do with them in their daily lives,” Robbins said. “There are 40 million people who work out in the world — conference teams, food trucks, artists on a project.” Presumably they need an attractive, lightweight, easy way to check in with each other without losing focus on other work.

The funding was led by Avalon Ventures‘ Rich Levandov with seed money from an AngelList syndicate led by Gil Penchina that includes Automattic (see disclosure) founder Matt Mullenweg, Twitter pioneer Jeremy LaTrasse, former Facebook operations guy Jonathan Heiliger and Fuel Capital.

As Gigaom reported in January, Robbins’ co-founders are Greg Albrecht, a former senior engineer at Splunk, and Roger Wood, chairman of Art+Data and a former product manager and engineering program manager at Motorola’s iDEN Group.

OnBeep Co-Founders Roger Wood, Jesse Robbins, Greg Albrecht

OnBeep co-founders Roger Wood, Jesse Robbins and Greg Albrecht

Disclosure: Automattic, maker of WordPress.com, is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, GigaOm. Om Malik, founder of GigaOm, is also a venture partner at True.

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