Mozilla leads Mastodon app Mammoth’s pre-seed funding

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Mammoth, a recently launched Mastodon app that aims to make it easier for users to join the decentralized social web, has a notable backer. The company confirmed that its main pre-seed investor is Mozilla, an advocate of the open web, which joined others including Long Journey Ventures and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff to invest in the company’s first overall round.

The company also has a unique founding story. The app was originally built by iOS developer Shihab Mehboob, the creator behind a number of apps, including whimsical music app Vinyls and Twitter client Aviary 2. The latter was influenced by Elon Musk’s Twitter API changes, which ended to third-party Twitter clients, prompting Mehboob to turn its attention to the decentralized and open source Twitter alternative Mastodon.

Mammoth was a result of those efforts, but has since been acquired by the company that now runs the project, led by lead developer Bart Decrem.

Now the team at Mammoth consists of just three full-time employees and a handful of contractors. And while the total investment round isn’t disclosed, Decrem characterized the pre-seed as a small amount — “a million or two is the general round” at this stage, he says.

The background of the new founder of Mammoth is in both open source and consumer apps, in addition to entrepreneurship.

In ’99, Decrem was working on a Linux startup called Eazel, which aimed to make Linux easier to use. While others on that project later built Safari and other technology at Apple, Decrem was with the Mozilla Foundation before the launch of Firefox 1.0. There he did marketing and business and worked on branding and the international launch. He also participated in the search monetization discussions, including the first Google search deal.

He later moved on to more entrepreneurial endeavors, including the VC-backed social web browser Flock (which received its fair share of AapkaDost coverage at the time), followed by early smartphone game maker Tapulous, creators of Tap Tap Revenge. The latter landed him after a takeover at Disney, as head of the mobile games group, releasing products such as the “Where’s My Water” series and some “Temple Run” titles.

Some of these past efforts also include the same approach of finding and collaborating with existing developers, Decrem notes, including the original Tap Tap Revenge developer. Later at Disney, he found a developer in QA who had built a No. 1 game on the App Store, but not under the Disney brand name. Decrem brought the developer into his group and gave him the space to create what “Where’s My Water?” became a title that has now been downloaded a billion times.

“The way I like to do things is you find someone special and then get out of the way and support their vision,” explains Decrem. “I saw that spark come in [Mammoth founder] Shihab [Mehboob]and that is why we work together.”

The two worked together while Decrem ran a small lab that had been working on decentralization projects, including a crypto app called KyrptoSign for legal documents on the blockchain, as well as an art collective. But when Mastodon came along, the team flipped, Mammoth took over, and now it’s the group’s sole focus.

Image Credits: Mammoth

For Decrem, the appeal of Mastodon wasn’t just that it’s an open source Twitter clone — something he said felt only “mildly interesting” — but that it was a place where communities formed.

“It reminded me of Firefox 0.7, which is where I got involved with Mozilla – the launch of Firefox,” says Decrem. “I was like, there’s just people here doing cool stuff… that feels exciting and interesting and everything I love about the internet – communities that build and organize themselves.”

“This thing is half microblogging, half people organizing communities — like Reddit, or maybe like Discord,” he continues. “This is like a digital native social system. And it is decentralized. That’s really cool.”

Other companies seem to think it’s cool too. Today, Flipboard announced that it is joining the decentralized social web. Medium has already done that, and Tumblr said it would.

Of course, the challenge for Mammoth is not only making the decentralized social web more attractive to more newcomers, but also successfully maintaining and monetizing the app itself. Decrem says the company plans to have a plan available within a few months that will range from $3-5 per month, at least half of which will likely go toward server bills.

But revenue isn’t the immediate focus – expanding the user base comes first. For now, thanks to Mozilla’s backing, Mammoth has at least a year’s worth of funding, Decrem says. And they are willing to be patient, he notes.

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