Silicon Prairie News

Leap.it closes $1.1M round with Brad Feld, AngelList syndicate as investors

Kansas City June 24, 2014 by Megan Bannister

Leap.it founder and CEO Mike Farmer first got to know Brad Feld by driving him to and from the airport for meetings at the Kauffman Foundation, where Feld was a board member.

Now Leap.it, a startup search site that wants to make searching the web more social and visual, has closed a $1.1 million convertible note, including investment from AngelList syndicate FG Angels. A joint venture of Feld's venture capital firm Foundry Group, the angel syndicate contributed $250,000 to Leap.it's raise. 

"We kicked off the process and the expectation was that there would be a first closing of follow-on investors in two or three weeks. The funding took place in less than an hour," Farmer told SPN. "There was that much interest in and appetite for what we're doing." 

Coupled with the syndicate investors' interest in Leap.it, the company was a No. 1 trending startup out of the 300,000 or so on AngelList for more than two weeks. Farmer added that they also were able to secure Kansas angel investor tax credits for all of the AngelList syndicate investors.

Last April, the startup closed a $1.6 million round of funding, led by Omaha's Dundee Venture Capital. Including previous seed funding, the company has now raised roughly $3 million since its founding. 

Feld blogged about Leap.it Monday, writing that the startup is "taking a different approach based on the belief that machine-based algorithms can only get you so far." 

But the Leap.it team and Feld are no strangers. Over the last few years, the relationship has continued to grow after Feld stopped by the Kansas City Startup Village for meetings. Eventually, he offered up the Fiberhouse, a home he bought for entrepreneurs to use rent free in Hanover Heights, for the startup's use.

When Demo Day for the Sprint Accelerator powered by Techstars arrived, Farmer said he was just as surprised as everyone else was to learn that Feld would be in town—along with fellow Techstars co-founders David Cohen and David Brown—for the event. Feld rarely travels for business anymore.

"The expectation was that he wasn't going to make it to Techstars' Demo Day, because it's been pretty publicly known that for about a year he hadn't done any travel," Farmer (right) said. "So when the email came in that said something like, 'I'm coming to town, Mike, and I want to have fun,' you can imagine that my wheels started spinning." 

While in town for Demo Day, Leap.it's director of product Tyler VanWinkle says Feld spent about 48 hours with the startup, even staying overnight in his Fiberhouse in the KCSV.

"He's a really insightful guy," VanWinkle (left) said of Feld. "He's got a crazy pulse on the market we're in and can really go deep."

Nearly three years ago when Leap.it, then Leap2, first launched, the company's app was working to rethink how mobile search operates. 

"After spending almost two years working on mobile first and figuring out how you put that much data on a search screen we had some interesting concepts to take from mobile and apply to web tech," VanWinkle said.

Now, with the launch of its latest product, Leap.it, in the beginning of March, those principles are being adapted for web-based searching.

"Online search fundamentally hasn't changed in 15 years and, to the largest degree, it's still just a list of links," VanWinkle said. 

Leap.it allows users to view search results as visual cards for web, videos, photos or social media interactions. Through Leap.it Perspectives, a unique feature for the site, users are able to collaboratively curate information on any subject to appear in the site's subsequent search results. Since its launch, VanWinkle says Leap.it has seen more than 2.5 million visitors.

Other than its visuals-based design, another way Leap.it is trying to change the search game is examining how real-time information affects organic search results. For example, how a factor like trending topics on Twitter can affect organic search results on Google or Bing to bring the most accurate information.

 

Credits: Farmer and VanWinkle photos from Leap.it.


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