Social Productivity App Orchestra Goes For $5.5M From Charles River, SV Angel, Mitch Kapor

By Kim-Mai Cutler Comment

As Apple’s app store matures with more than $2.5 billion paid out to developers, it’s inevitable that some of the less highly-trafficked categories beyond games will start to grow up too.

The oft-overlooked ‘Productivity’ segment is getting some support today as Orchestra, a company from a long-time Apple alumnus and a former Ideo designer, is announcing that it has raised $5.5 million from Charles River Ventures, Ron Conway’s SV Angel and other angel investors including Mitch Kapor. (There were actually two rounds. One is a $5 million round this month from CRV and SV Angel. An earlier angel round happened in March involving Kapor and others.)

Orchestra is a social to-do list that marries chat and e-mail. Users can add tasks by e-mail, voice recognition or by typing into the app itself. They can also send tasks to friends or co-workers, even if they don’t have the app by using their phone number or e-mail. Within each task is a group chat thread where all members can collaborate and keep tabs on whether the task is getting done.

“SMS is great for communication and e-mail is actually like a to-do list, but the subject lines never tell you what needs to happen,” said co-founder Gentry Underwood, who was at IDEO for four years. “E-mail doesn’t remember to check up with you or the other person to see if it’s been done. There’s no accountability, no follow-up. At the same time, to-do lists have been a profoundly single-player experience.”

Orchestra To-Do creates more of a social environment where groups of people can share lists of things that need to get done. Everyone can see what every other member of the group is working on.

So far, Orchestra’s app has a little bit of early traction without much press, thanks to being featured by Apple in the store over a period of three weeks. Lifehacker also called it the best to-do app for the iPhone just a few weeks ago.

Of course, given that it’s a productivity app (which is less fun than a game or a photography app), it will likely have issues seeing the same level of growth as these kinds of apps.

On the other hand, because the productivity category is so under-exploited, Orchestra doesn’t face as much competition for mindshare in that segment. Orchestra is a free app, and Underwood was coy about what the company’s long-term revenue model will eventually be.

The Palo Alto-based company has seven employees. Underwood’s co-founder is Apple alumnus Scott Cannon, who worked on operations at Apple for five years.