Portland startup Celly, whose technology creates ad-hoc social networks, has lined up $1.4 million in backing from a collection of Oregon investors.
Celly users can access the network from a computer, smartphone -- or even as a text message, from a bare-bones cell phone. That makes it easy for a range of people to sign on, and makes it easy to create spontaneous new networks ("cells").
"We wanted to build basically the smallest tool that we could build that would have the greatest impact on the most people in the shortest amount of time," said Russell Okamoto, Celly's chief executive and co-founder.
Celly launched in 2011 and members of that year's Occupy Movement were some of its first clients, using the company's tool to arrange impromptu protests and react as a group to rapidly changing conditions.
But Celly has a much broader audience in mind. Portland Public Schools uses the technology to reach groups of parents and students, and the city of Portland uses it to notify residents of gang activity and neighborhood safety issues. The company hopes other government agencies and businesses will find it useful, too.
Celly's basic tool is free, but Celly charges a "power user subscription" for group polling and other features.
Thus far, Celly says users have created 20,000 "cells." The company has just two employees, Okamoto and co-founder Greg Passmore, who met 14 years ago when they were colleagues at a software company called GemStone Systems (now owned by VMware.) They said they will use today's funding to hire developers to build out their technology.
Backers include the Oregon Angel Fund, startup incubator Upstart Labs and the Portland Seed Fund -- a publicly backed investment group that usually serves as a business incubator, but chose to make a direct investment in Celly.
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