Open-Source Startup Meteor Gets $11.2M from Andreessen Horowitz

Meteor Development Group (MDG) raises $11.2 million in funding from Andreessen Horowitz and others to fund development around the open-source Meteor Web app development platform.

Meteor Development Group (MDG), the company behind the Meteor open-source project, which produces a platform for building software applications, has announced $11.2 million in funding led by Andreessen Horowitz.

Also participating in the Series A round of funding was Matrix Partners and others, while a veritable "dream team" of enterprise technology leaders, including Rod Johnson, the creator of the Spring Framework and founder of SpringSource€”now part of VMware€”will advise the company.

Applications written with Meteor run on a user's own computer€”inside their browser or on their mobile device€”and fetch any needed data from cloud services, which represents a sharp break from the model of Web applications for the past 15 years, where applications run on distant Web servers. Running the application on the user's computer gives a smoother, more responsive experience that is increasingly expected by consumers. Companies like Google, Facebook and Twitter use this technique in their flagship products, but it is typically out of reach for most developers because it takes months of work even for a team of experts, MDG officials said.

The Meteor Project is a collaboration between a group of developers who are experts in building this new kind of application. Its goal is to put the new technology in the hands of everyone. Because the Meteor platform is open source, any person or company may use it for free, or modify it to suit their needs. And Meteor apps can be written entirely in JavaScript.

"We want to create the universal standard for writing this kind of application, and that will only happen through broad industry cooperation," said Meteor co-author Matt DeBergalis, in a statement. "It's clear to everyone that we need something new. Will it be Meteor? What we see today is that it is open-source developers who drive the technology that is ultimately adopted everywhere else in the industry. So it depends on whether the open-source community chooses to rally around Meteor."

The new funding comes in the form of a Series A investment in Meteor Development Group, a corporation controlled by Geoff Schmidt, Matt DeBergalis and Nick Martin, the original authors of Meteor. The company will use the money to support Meteor development and grow the Meteor community, and plans to sell a complementary set of enterprise-grade operations management tools to large organizations that are using Meteor.

"JavaScript is fast becoming the most popular programming language for Web development, and Meteor is front-and-center in the JavaScript community. By addressing simplicity and scalability, Meteor is a great platform for enterprise Web development," said Peter Levine, general partner, Andreessen Horowitz, in a statement. "We are delighted to be partnering with Geoff, Matt and Nick as they build out the next-generation Web development tools."

In a blog post on the Meteor funding, Levine notes that JavaScript has become the No. 1 programming language on the GitHub hosting service for software development projects.

€œThe problem with JavaScript, however, is that it was designed to be a client-side language, leaving all the back-end server implementation to other languages,€ Levine said in his post. €œThe result is that cloud-based Web applications take way too long to develop due to the sheer complexity and brittleness of the environment. Without Meteor, everything from security, to multi-tenancy, to latency, to database access requires special APIs and custom development, and developers need to know at least two languages.€

Yet, Levine continued, €œThe Meteor framework solves all of these problems. Meteor makes real-time application development dramatically faster and more approachable. It gives developers a comprehensive platform for writing Web apps in JavaScript where both client and server code use the same language and API, enabling the same code to be run on both the client and server. The result is real-time, cloud-based Web apps that are scalable, secure and distributed by design.€

Thus, the healthy investment in the startup. €œWe see this technology as fundamentally important to the future of the Web,€ Levine added. €œThrough this investment in Meteor, as well as our recent investment in GitHub, we at a16z are excited to help developers build the next generation of applications.€

Meanwhile, in a separate post, David Skok, a general partner at Matrix Partners, indicated that Meteor might be the next Ruby on Rails. He said, €œEvery once in a while a new application development framework comes along that dramatically accelerates the way people create applications. Those rare platforms that excite developers ultimately revitalize software development and spur new creativity. Though it's still early, Meteor appears to be the next big thing in Web application development as it is clearly delighting both expert and novice developers.€

In his own post on the Meteor Website, Schmidt, CEO of MDG, said the $11.2 million gives the company €œcertainty€ because €œno matter what else happens in the world, the core team will be able to focus entirely on Meteor for several years, without taking on consulting work or trying to create some other application on top of Meteor to sell. The high valuation of the round eliminates any possibility of a talent acquisition. And we control the company's board. So, everyone in the community can be certain that Meteor will be around for the long haul.€

And though Meteor will always be free and open source, eventually MDG plans to deliver a commercial product named Galaxy, Schmidt said. €œGalaxy will be a product that the operations department at a large company might buy,€ he said. €œIt'll be an enterprise-grade, multi-tenant hosting environment for Meteor apps. In other words, it'll let you run a private, centrally controlled €˜meteor deploy€™-like service for your company, on your own hardware. You'll be able to manage how your apps are distributed across your data centers, perform capacity planning, and enforce controls and policies that are appropriate to your organization. Google and Facebook have these tools€”why shouldn't your organization?€

However, the MDG agenda for the next few years is to:

  1. Make Meteor the best platform for writing most any kind of app. This is an enormous job and will continue to consume almost all of our energy. Our goal is ubiquity on the scale of SQL, Apache or Java.
  2. Create opportunities for Meteor developers€”for example, encourage companies to adopt Meteor, creating jobs. We want to make you famous and get you paid.
  3. Support the Meteor community. This includes everything, from publishing books and organizing conferences, to being responsive to bug reports and pull requests, to finally making some cool T-shirts.

Rod Johnson will join the company's board. Skok and Levine will serve as special advisors to the company. Previously, Skok built the enterprise sales strategy for JBoss, the open-source Java application server, while Levine is the former CEO of Xensource, which was acquired by Citrix Systems.

"Rod, David and Peter are our dream team," Schmidt said in a statement. "They know more than anyone else about building open-source technology for the enterprise."

"Today, we're in the midst of the biggest architectural change since the rise of the Web. Traditional Web application architectures don't cut it anymore, as users expect a better experience," said Johnson in a statement. "I believe that Meteor can lead this transformation in Web technology, and I'm excited to join their board. Meteor not only enables Web developers to develop rich applications spanning multiple client types, it makes Web development fun again."

Andreessen Horowitz led the Series A financing, which included significant participation by Matrix Partners. Other investors include Maynard Webb, who sits on the boards of Salesforce and Yahoo; Paul Buchheit, author of Gmail; James Lindenbaum, co-founder of Heroku; Dustin Moskovitz, co-founder of Facebook; Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of Reddit; Y Combinator; Ron Conway; Yuri Milner; and Aaron Iba, co-author of EtherPad.