OpenCandy Leads The San Diego Startup Charge

December 16, 2010

2:40 pm

In the hip Gaslamp Quarter of San Diego, the streets are filled with restaurants, bars, cafes and coffee shops which bring energy to the community. But above the buzz of the streets, OpenCandy has been doing business since 2008. With it’s hip new office in downtown San Diego which oozes with startup energy, freedom and excitement, OpenCandy is looking to keep the San Diego tech scene on the ups. They are obviously not alone as startups like Goowy Media exited with a sale to Aol in 2008 and we’ve showcased 12 early-stage startups this year in our two visits to southern California. San Diego also has a number of bigger companies in the area, such as Sony, Qualcomm, Kodak, HP and Nokia, which all have large offices just north of the city.

So what does OpenCandy do?  If you consider apps as the “candy” – they open it up, freeing the apps to be more widely adopted by audiences and connecting app makers with advertisers. I recently talked with CEO and Co-founder Darrius Thompson who shared their big aspirations as a company and how their mission of helping developers guides them at each step.

Getting Started
With years of software development experience, Darrius and the team identified a challenge when it came to distributing software for small to medium sized developers, so they formed OpenCandy to help fix this problem as they looked to level the playing field for developers and make some money along the way. “We wanted to operate a real business with a revenue model from the start” said Darrius. Early on, OpenCandy was able to leverage its software development experience and the relationships it had garnered to create their first big break in the distribution game. Darrius added:

“Fortunately we were already well connected with the open source community and worked with them  to get feedback – which is an important group to gain buy-in from if you are going to be looking to distribute software.”

A Non-traditional Venture
OpenCandy is unique in a number of ways which makes them special and exciting to keep our eye on.

  1. OpenCandy has not one, not two, but six co-founders. I cannot think of another startup that has gotten off the ground with a half dozen co-founders. It’s definitely unique but what made it work was an agreed upon approach that a “co-founder” is nothing more than status as a co-founder. It’s not a job – there is only one CEO and everyone has their own roles and responsibilities.
  2. OpenCandy’s business and entrepreneurial approach is very strategic yet simple and extendible. They have a clear revenue model and their business can be applied to a number of different areas which is probably why they’ve attracted some great investors, including Google Ventures.
  3. OpenCandy has a unique and strong company culture which starts at the top. It’s a culture of accountability and ownership. This approach empowers each and every employee to take ownership for decision making which should always be in line with the greater good and mission of the company.

OpenCandy got off the ground with the help of a Series A round of funding which came from Bessemer Venture Partners, O’Reilly Alpha Tech Ventures, and Reid Hoffman of LinkedIn and Jordan Greenhall of DivX, helping the company to validate their concept. Upon doing so they embarked on scaling the business and raised a Series B round of funding which included O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures (OATV), Bessemer Venture Partners and Google Ventures. In working with Tim O’Reilly of OATV, they gathered a better understanding of the framework necessary for success. OpenCandy’s relationship with Google Ventures stemmed from a prior relationship with Joe Kraus who was an angel investor prior to joining Google Ventures. OpenCandy admits they have been able to look to Google Ventures for assistance in key areas, such as design and human resource help, which is a unique relationship for many startups and their VC’s.

A Bright Future
So with their “David vs. Goliath” approach of helping small to medium sized developers, OpenCandy is now poised for growth and at the same time, looking to help grow and shape the San Diego technology community. With this growth, there are lots of opportunities to become a part of it as OpenCandy is looking for talented “good” people who will take on their greater mission, have the mindset of an owner  and always act with the greater good in mind – looking to free the candy.

OpenCandy office

The team works in a hip office in downtown San Diego.

OpenCandy Mural

The mural includes a piece of candy for each employee so far.

OpenCandy Office

Detail of OpenCandy mural.

OpenCandy Office

Getting new rooms ready for the growing company.

Employees add their own touches to office with Polaroids strung throughout.

OpenCandy Office

Where the real work gets done.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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