Exceptional raises $15 million to carry its e-paper tablets to extra scribblers

Exceptional, the Norwegian startup behind the digital paper pill of the identical identify, has raised $15 million in a collection A spherical of funding from Spark Capital.

Based out of Oslo in 2013, Exceptional is focusing on writers and note-takers with a $500 pill that strives to duplicate paper in a digital type. The corporate makes use of its personal Linux-based working system that’s optimized for the 10.3″ e-paper show; it focuses squarely on low-latency to carry the expertise as shut as attainable to writing or drawing on actual paper.

Customers can create a doc from scratch, or annotate present PDFs, and sync all their creations to the cloud. Which means they will entry all the pieces by means of a companion app on cellular units and the desktop, whereas the gadget can also be able to changing handwritten notes into typed textual content utilizing optical character recognition (OCR), which might then be shared by e-mail.

Above: ReMarkable

Before now, Exceptional had raised $10 million over two seed-funding rounds, stemming from a spread of Nordic-based household places of work, early-stage traders, and angels. With one other $15 million within the financial institution, it mentioned that it plans to speed up its progress, spend money on its gross sales and advertising and marketing efforts, and plow some cash into R&D round future merchandise.

“We’ve been in discussions with many traders over the previous a number of years,” famous Exceptional founder and CEO Magnus Haug Wanberg. “From the very starting, Spark’s alignment with not solely our imaginative and prescient but additionally our tradition made them stand out from the remaining. It additionally didn’t damage that they have been early adopters and avid customers of our paper pill.”

Within the two years since VentureBeat final lined Exceptional, the corporate has refocused its efforts by way of its goal market — initially it was pitched at anybody from enterprise individuals to creatives, the latter successfully that means those that wish to sketch and illustrate. Whereas such artistic varieties can nonetheless use Exceptional for that, the corporate now sees its core viewers as being the enterprise fraternity.

“We rapidly noticed that the individuals who have been most involved in Exceptional have been the enterprise execs and people who have been utilizing our pill as a instrument for note-taking, assembly notes, and to-do lists,” Exceptional’s VP of communications, Henrik Gustav Faller, informed VentureBeat. “For greater than two years now, we’ve got subsequently not focused sketchers or illustrators particularly, although many inside this viewers have continued to buy tablets from us.”

Exceptional isn’t the one firm pushing digital paper tablets. Sony has supplied a spread of e-paper tablets for a number of years, although traditionally they have been as much as double the worth of Exceptional’s effort and far larger. Final 12 months, nonetheless, Sony launched the brand new DPT-CP1, which is accessible in a 10.3″ model beginning at $599 — nonetheless $100 greater than Exceptional’s. Furthermore, Sony’s incarnation is extra about annotating paperwork than full-on note-taking or sketching.

So whereas Exceptional has some competitors on the market, the units finally have completely different use instances. That mentioned, Sony launched a brand new three way partnership with E Ink Holdings again in 2017, with a view towards creating new e-paper show merchandise, so don’t be shocked if extra comparable units come to market sooner or later.

The story thus far

Above: Exceptional CFO Jeremy Gerst (left) and CEO Magnus Wanberg

Exceptional bypassed conventional crowdfunding platforms to open up preorders for the gadget again in 2016, and it mentioned on the time that it generated greater than $11 million in gross sales. The gadget didn’t begin delivery to prospects till late 2017.

Exceptional informed VentureBeat that it has now shipped “properly over” 100,000 models up to now two years, with complete gross sales exceeding $60 million. Nevertheless, the corporate isn’t making a revenue but, due largely to the investments being made again within the firm, which has included rising its workforce from “only a handful” final 12 months to greater than 100 workers at present. “Exceptional is investing closely in progress and is subsequently not worthwhile but,” Faller mentioned.

A core criticism of use-case particular merchandise comparable to Exceptional is that they appear like an terrible lot of cash for performance that may be replicated in different units comparable to an iPad. Nevertheless, a part of its promoting level is that Exceptional encourages distraction-free writing — it doesn’t provide entry to the net, and you may’t set up Fb, Twitter, or some other comparable app. It adheres to the rules of “digital detox” with out having to completely ditch the advantages of linked units. This pattern is evidenced elsewhere within the expertise sphere, with swathes of newfangled “stripped down” cell phones that favor primary options over full smartphone performance.

Spark Capital is a notable big-name backer for Exceptional to safe at its collection A stage, with prior investments together with Twitter, Tumblr, Postmates, Slack, JFrog, and Foursquare. Spark Capital additionally has a roster of {hardware} firms in its portfolio, together with the now Fb-owned Oculus, fitness-tech startup Mirror, and Amazon-backed holographic glasses maker North.

“We associate with distinctive entrepreneurs constructing merchandise which can be forward of the pack and superbly designed,” mentioned Kevin Thau, associate at Spark Capital. “reMarkable has put collectively an unbelievable workforce and have efficiently tapped into an ongoing pattern in the direction of units with a devoted objective. They’ve created a novel expertise from the bottom up that’s already resonating deeply with customers.”

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