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Notification overload may be one of the biggest scourges of the modern digital world, but the fact of the matter is that people need to know when a critical message has landed on their smartphone — by manually checking the dozens of apps they use to determine , whether they’ve been outbid on eBay or their flight is delayed is just not practical.
Alerts are the cornerstone of pretty much any modern consumer or enterprise software. But building and maintaining the infrastructure for all of these notifications, be they in-app notifications, text messages, or push notifications, requires significant development resources. That’s where a new startup called Novu comes in, providing the “developer notification infrastructure” packaged into a set of APIs and front-end components. And it’s also completely open source.
Originally founded as Notifire in June of last year, the co-founders of Novu set out to solve a problem they’ve encountered at previous companies. In short, they couldn’t find a standard product that managed the entire notification infrastructure stack across multiple channels – one with an easy-to-use management interface. So they had to build the solution internally themselves.
“In a way, we feel like we’re building Novu for the third time,” Novu co-founder and CEO Tomer Barnea told VentureBeat.
Novu entered the open-source scene last September, with the project attracting about 4,000 community members over the past several months – many of whom have had similar experiences building their own internal notification infrastructure. And that just confirmed what Barnea & Co. had already suspected – companies would rather not build their notification infrastructure from scratch.
“The ever-growing number of channels and customers demanding better and more personalized communications requires too much time and focus from one of the company’s scarcest and most expensive resources – developers,” said Barnea. “Novu handles all of the management and scaling of these transactional communication channels.”
Under the hood
The current incarnation of the Novu platform includes “priority management”, which is essentially an API that centralizes all communication channels, including email, SMS, push notifications, and direct (in-app) notifications. Additionally, Novu provides content management tools for designing notifications as well as monitoring smarts to debug deliverability issues.
Together, Novu’s various APIs and components allow developers to create a fully-functional Notification Center, either “headless” using only Novu’s Notification Feed API, or with Novu’s own customizable user interface.
To take Novu to the next level and develop commercial features on the core open-source platform, Novu announced this week that it has raised $6.6 million in seed funding led by Crane Ventures with participation from Eniac , MXV, Entrée Capital, and a host of individual Angel supporters.
The open source factor
While there are some open-source notification solutions that help developers manage parts of their notification infrastructure stack, Novu aims to provide a holistic offering that spans all channels. It’s also worth noting that there are proprietary alternatives like Courier and MagicBell, but Novu hopes its open-source foundation will help ingratiate itself with developers who are generally interested in open-source products.
“Selling to developers is not an easy task as developers tend to ignore promoted ads and traditional marketing channels,” Barnea explained. “As we’ve seen at Novu, the open source platform helps us reach thousands of developers around the world who have experienced the issue first hand. Developers want to understand the tools they use and tailor them to their needs – open source software provides just that. It also helps build a high level of trust that comes from having a large community of engineers working on this problem. “
With $6.6 million in the bank, the company is now poised to extend its existing platform with additional capabilities essential to any all-encompassing notification infrastructure. In fact, Novu is working on what’s called a “digest engine,” which basically means apps can aggregate multiple events into a single notification. And Novu will introduce “Timezone Awareness,” allowing businesses to send transaction notifications based on a user’s geographic location and (likely) working hours.
Novu will also focus on monetization, which will involve selling a fully managed cloud product that abstracts the inherent complexities of a self-hosted product. Barnea confirmed that this will follow a usage-based pricing philosophy, similar to Twilio, where businesses are billed based on the number of notifications.
But all of that is to come in the future.
“Right now our main focus is to build a community of developers who are passionate about what we do and to help build it by contributing to our open source project,” said Barnea.
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