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After Dark at Cambridge VC Firm, An iPhone Skunkworks Swings Into Action

Posted by Scott Kirsner  July 21, 2009 02:08 PM

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Heard about the Cambridge venture capital firm that turns into a skunkworks for new iPhone apps after 7 PM?

When the VCs clock out at GreatPoint Ventures, Ben Jabbawy, Yoni Gontownik, and Jesse Dunietz get down to work.

Jabbawy is an associate at the VC firm, which has done well investing in companies like Coatue (acquired by AMD) and Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (which IPOed, then was bought by GlaxoSmithKline last year for $720 million). Gontownik is a an analyst at GreatPoint Energy, a cleantech start-up funded by the firm, and Dunietz is a computer science undergrad at MIT.

"We see an opportunity in the iPhone apps space," Jabbawy told me at the Web Innovators Group gathering last week. He's also trying to make a case with his bosses at GreatPoint Ventures that they should expand their focus beyond just life sciences and cleantech, and consider investing in the mobile sector. But the trio is also developing apps "just for fun," Jabbawy says.

Their company (operating hours: 7 PM to about 3 AM) is called Tiverias Apps. Their first app, GPush, delivers near-instant push e-mail from Google's popular Gmail service to the iPhone. (Nothing else does this yet, I'm told.) It'll cost 99 cents. The app got a nice advance write-up on TechCrunch earlier this month -- even though it isn't yet available through Apple's iTunes Store. Apple has to approve all the apps that go on sale, and it's not yet known whether or when Apple will give the green light. (Up to this point, Apple supports its own MobileMe service for push, Microsoft Exchange, and Yahoo e-mail on the iPhone -- but not Gmail.)

Next up for Tiverias is an iPhone app that will enable you to take a photo of someone's business card with your iPhone, store the image on Evernote, and have the person's contact information entered automatically into your address book.

GreatPoint Ventures has a small stake in Tiverias, presumably in exchange for the late-night office space. (Otherwise, the company would have to be headquartered at a Wendy's.) Tiverias has a Twitter feed here.

(Incidentally, GreatPoint Ventures isn't the only local VC firm that has been contributing, tangentially, to the local iPhone ecosystem... FitNow, which makes a popular weight loss app for the iPhone called LoseIt, is run by Charles Teague, formerly a technologist-in-residence at General Catalyst Partners in Cambridge.)

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2 comments so far...
  1. oooo...VCs writing iPhone applications. Alert the media. Guess they did.

    Many great ideas can not get funding in this climate. The next Apple computer will likely not happen due to the current VC climate and we are touting iPhone apps. This is ridiculous.

    Posted by texas2step July 22, 09 12:10 AM
  1. These guys turned out to be very successful rip-off artists. Sold a TON of the gpush app at $1.99, then shut it down, went silent on support and just disappeared. Nice work, if you can get it.

    Posted by Susan Bowers November 20, 09 05:18 PM


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About Scott Kirsner

Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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March 3: Web Innovators Group
Demos, drinks, and schmoozing at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge.

March 7-8: MassDigi Game Challenge
Competition for aspiring game developers... plus panels and keynotes related to the business of play.

April 3-4: Mass Biotech Annual Meeting
Issues facing the region's life sciences community.