Kumar’s Startup Apropose Receives $1.875M in Seed Funding Round
Apropose, a software startup founded by Assistant Professor Ranjitha Kumar to develop design analytics tools for the web, recently announced that it received $1.875 million in seed financing led by New Enterprise Associates and Andreessen Horowitz, with additional support from Pat Hanrahan (founder, Tableau) and Nick McKeown (founder, Nicira). The financing will be used to scale the company's core infrastructure and engineering team in support of its first product launch this fall.
Apropose aims to make data an integral part of the design process. There are over a billion pages on the web today, yet site design remains a thorny and expensive problem: designers find it difficult to justify decisions to clients, clients struggle to articulate aesthetic preferences, and businesses have limited resources to meaningfully evaluate their designs. “Designers and their clients often lack a common vocabulary,” said Kumar. “When you say ‘modern’, it may not evoke the image that you’d hoped in your designer’s mind. Apropose grounds the design process in data: we make it easy for you to understand what you like and what you don’t and why.”
Apropose's tools, some of which will be reaching the market later this year, enable large-scale visual page search and provide comprehensive web design analytics. The platform can be used to track evolving design practice, compare site designs within target demographics, and identify and understand prevalent design patterns and pageflows.
"We founded Apropose with the fundamental belief that data can revolutionize design," said company co-founder and CEO (and Illinois alumnus) Jerry Talton (BS CS ’03, MS ‘05). "Design is an integral part of a company's online presence and brand, but trends change so quickly and the space is so large that it's tremendously difficult to navigate. Apropose gives users creative confidence by putting design data at their fingertips, in a form that makes it easy to search, aggregate, and understand. The hardest part of design isn't building things; it's figuring out what to build."
As Kumar explained, “What Apropose is doing at its heart is bringing computer science to the design process. Design is one of the last areas of human endeavor that hasn’t benefited from computer science in the sense of disruptive, transformational improvements in processes and workflows. Designers are constantly drawing from examples and situating themselves in the space of prior work, but it’s a painful, manual process. It’s a classic example of a human pain point that technology can alleviate.”
When Apropose was founded in September of 2013, the company had an idea, but little money. “Funding can accelerate growth, but it isn’t a panacea for innovation. We had a strong sense that bootstrapping was important for us, to make sure we were building the kind of company we’d all want to work at. There were four founders, and we each kicked in some money and agreed not to get paid for a year,” said Kumar.
Now the funding will enable them to expand their operations and hire more personnel as they further develop their products. For Kumar, the people have been a particularly positive part of the startup experience. “One of the most rewarding things has been building our team,” she said. “We have world experts at the intersection of design and software and data, and they defy a lot of the traditional notions of what a tech startup is supposed to look like.”
In addition to the Illinois connections of Kumar and Talton, CS alumnus Dan Fike (BS CS ’07), formerly of Deep Silver Volition, recently joined the company to head its engineering team.
Founded by Kumar, Talton, Maxine Lim, and Arvind Satyanarayan in 2013, Apropose was spun out of Stanford University's computer science department from award-winning research in data-driven design. Based in Mountain View, California, Apropose's core team includes experts in human-computer interaction, graphics and visualization, machine learning, and probabilistic modeling. For more information, visit the Apropose website.