Originally published at: http://mycroft.ai/blog/history-of-mycroft-how-we-got-here/
Our community and the power of crowdfunding is important. Mycroft was not a company before we took our Mark I device to Kickstarter and used perks-based crowdfunding to determine market interest. Because of the success of that project and the power of Kickstarter we were able to build a community of like-minded individuals to work together on an open source voice assistant. We ended up raising $193,000 total from Kickstarter and Indiegogo to produce our Mark I.
Equity CrowdfundingBefore we made it possible for anyone to invest in Mycroft, and on the heels of our success with perks-based crowdfunding, we decided to explore equity crowdfunding to raise money. We used sites like Crowdfunder, AngelList, and Fundable to source accredited investors who would support our early growth. As a young company with few connections, these sites broadened our reach and helped us fill both our Angel and Seed rounds. We ended up raising over $1.1M. When you add the $300,000 in matching funds the Missouri Technology Corporation provided, it makes up more than half of our total investment to date. Beyond the money, these early investors have added extra value in their networks, feedback, and mentorship. That success is part of what led us to accept investments from anyone on StartEngine.
CompetitiveAlong with fundraising, we found ourselves on a bit of a competitive streak. In September 2016, we took home top prizes at the GE FirstBuild hackathon, where we teamed up with future Mycroft intern Aura and her classmates from Columbus College of Art and Design. Soon after, Mycroft turned a win at LaunchKC into a win at Techweek’s National Pitch Competition. We attended 500 Startups, the Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator, MassChallenge, K-Startup, and Plug and Play Mobility. We participated in the Visa Everywhere Initiative, won a Technology in Motion award, and showed off at TechCrunch. Most recently took home the Data and AI award at Hello Tomorrow and were named a Startland News Top KC Startup to Watch.
Lots of ProgressOur success in fundraising and winning competitions allowed us to make great progress on the tech and expand the team. We traded Slack for open-source chat alternative Mattermost and adopted a software versioning system similar to Ubuntu’s. We brought on Developer Relations superstar Kathy Reid who overhauled Mycroft’s docs and helped kick off discussions around internationalization. Later, we welcomed backend systems veteran Chris Veilleux. We demoed Mycroft in a Jaguar F-Type, deployed training systems for Precise and DeepSpeech, developed a strategy to build strong AI, and released our Beta. The rest of the industry wasn’t sitting idle though. Google released their Duplex demo and we offered this response.
A Second KickstarterWith the success of the first Kickstarter we decided crowdfunding our Mark II would be best. Our community support has been the single biggest factor in determining our success, and again, they did not disappoint. We reached our minimum funding goal in 6 hours and went on to raise $394,000 with Kickstarter to bring the Mark II to production. To keep presales rolling, we put Mark II on Indiegogo Indemand where you can still reserve your Mark II.
From the beginning, we have worked with our community to build something they want. The way we know this is because we don’t operate behind closed walls. The developers who build Skills are most often community members. They are active in the chat and forum and read our newsletter every week. They keep us aware of bugs and issues, and let us know what features should be next.
Above all, we got here because of our community, who have supported us since day one.