Owl Labsa start-up developing a lineup of AI-powered conferencing hardware, today announced that it raised $25 million in a Series C round led by HP Tech Ventures (HP’s venture capital arm) with participation from Sourcenext, Matrix Partners, Spark Capital and Playground Global. The closing of the tranche marks the beginning of a strategic partnership with HP, said Frank Weishaupt, CEO of Owl Labs, whereby HP will invest in Owl Labs’ various product offerings while providing sales coverage and outreach to enterprise customers.
In particular, HP recently acquired Poly, which has developed a range of video and voice devices and software for virtual conferencing. Weishaupt sees no contradiction, arguing that Poly’s products are complementary to those of Owl Labs and “demonstrate HP’s commitment to transforming the workplace into a hybrid model.”
“The funding will enable Owl Labs to continue its accelerated growth…Owl Labs will use the investment to support product development and increase global adoption of the company’s products, including the [Owl Labs’] product line,” Weishaupt told australiabusinessblog.com in an email interview. The funding will also be used to expand Owl Labs’ global footprint and deepen go-to-market partnerships, starting with a commercial agreement between Owl Labs and HP France, where HP will sell Owl Labs’ products through their local sales team.”
Owl Labs was founded in 2014 by Mark Schnittman and Max Makeev, who wanted to develop a better video conferencing experience than cameras could achieve at the time. (Weishaupt, a former CarGurus exec, joined Owl Labs as CEO in early 2019.) Drawing on their work at iRobot, the Schnittman and Schnittman created Owl Labs’ first product, the auto-running Meeting Owl Pro, after developing the concept tested by a laptop on a rotating stool.
Today, Owl Labs sells several products, including a dedicated whiteboard camera, a meeting room control console, and the latest generation meeting camera, the Meeting Owl 3. The Meeting Owl 3 has a microphone and speaker array combined with a 360-degree camera , which zooms in on the person who is speaking.
There are countless ‘intelligent’ conference cameras on the market, including heavy hitters Microsoft and Google. But Weishaupt argues that Owl Labs’ software is a differentiator. Called the Owl Intelligence System, it allows customers to connect up to two Meeting Owls to extend their video and audio range and add facial recognition, including for masked faces.
“Meeting Owl 3 is the only 360-degree video conferencing device on the market that can be connected with others to extend reach into larger spaces,” said Weishaupt. “Owl Labs’ technology is learning the space to create a more seamless experience and getting smarter over time.”
Owl Labs got caught up in a negative press cycle earlier this year when a security firm, Modzero, found out vulnerabilities in various models of the Meeting Owl and whiteboard camera that attackers could exploit to obtain sensitive data. Owl Labs has patched the exploit, which doesn’t seem to have affected sales hugely — Weishaupt says more than 130,000 organizations use Owl Labs’ products, including 84 Fortune 100 companies.
“We can share that we’ve had a solid growth trajectory with more than 3x revenue growth year-over-year and 7x revenue growth since the start of the pandemic,” said Weishaupt, who declined to share more precise revenue numbers. “Owl Labs became the first company to build AI-powered 360-degree video conferencing solutions for hybrid organizations. As a pre-pandemic hybrid company, Owl Labs is an expert in using technology to bridge the gap between remote and in-person work environments.”
To date, Boston-based Owl Labs with more than 100 employees has raised $47 million in funding.