A startup called Caavo thinks it has a solution to the too-much-TV problem, with a device that brings together all the different streaming boxes and TV services you subscribe to. The company, which has raised $15 million in funding, provides a universal remote with voice control and a unified TV interface so users can search and discover all the TV content available to them.
Before we talk about Caavo, though, let’s discuss the problem. For TV lovers, never before has there been so many TV shows, so many networks, so many video services, so many streaming boxes. And yet, though content is abundant, never has it been more difficult to find something worth watching.
This is not a new refrain, but it is one that has only become more pronounced with time.
The preponderance of original content from digital distributors like Netflix and Amazon has made having a streaming box or connected TV a necessity. But not every streaming box has every app, meaning sometimes two or three connected boxes are necessary to access everything you might want to watch. Add a set-top box or DVR to the mix, maybe a gaming system or two, and you’ve quickly run out of HDMI ports to plug things into.
For the modern TV addict, though, that is the least of one’s worries. Having to switch inputs and launch different apps on different boxes is routine, while constantly swapping remotes has become the bane of one’s existence.
Cavoo’s device has eight HDMI inputs, which should satisfy all but the most fanatical TV watchers. Once plugged in, the system automatically recognizes what type of streaming box or game system it’s connected to and adds them to its navigation.
Users tell Cavoo which streaming services they have subscribed to, and can even designate which device they’d prefer to access each on. (e.g. if you prefer to watch Netflix on your Xbox but like Amazon on your Fire TV.)
Once everything is set up, users can search or navigate their content through a voice-activated universal remote. To launch a particular piece of content, they just tell the remote to “watch” it. If it’s something you’ve already been viewing, Caavo will pick up where you left off, or show you which services or apps you can watch it on.
A Neutral Approach
The Caavo founding team brings deep expertise in both hardware and media services, with decades of experience at companies like Jawbone, Sling, Microsoft Xbox, Harman and shufflr.tv.
The company was founded by the late Blake Krikorian, who helped introduced the concept of place-shifting to the TV industry through the creation of Sling Media. Before passing away last summer, Krikorian brought together a team that includes co-founders Andrew Einaudi, Ashish Aggarwal and Vinod Gopinath.
Together they hope to make it easier to navigate an increasingly fragmented media landscape and allow users to quickly and easily find what they want to watch.
To build the product, the Caavo team has raised $15 million from investors like Jason Krikorian at DCM, David Sze at Greylock, as well as Sky and Hearst Ventures.
Jason Krikorian, who founded Sling along with his brother Blake, told me that the idea of a unified ‘god box’ has been around for a while — and that is was one of the product ideas they were thinking of building. The problem has only gotten worse since then, though.
One of the reasons the problem hasn’t ben solved yet, is that every device manufacturer is jockeying for Input 1. Before building anything, Caavo’s founders talked to MSOs, device manufacturers and service providers to show how they’re going to make content more easily available to users.
“Caavo’s approach is very purposefully trying to be neutral to all of these services and allowing the consumer to get faster access to all the content they want to get access to,” Krikorian said.
Meanwhile, Caavo marks the first media investment Greylock’s Sze has made since putting money into Vudu back in 2006. For his part, he said he was interested in what Caavo was doing after seeing how big and complex the problem is, and how much worse it’s gotten since then. He believes the time isright for this type of product in part because the industry has gotten more fragmented.
“I think it really is a matter of timing and fragmentation in the volume of apps and content sources that you have today… Two years ago you didn’t have amazon making original programming, or netflix making original programming,” Sze said.
The Caavo device and remote will sell for $399, with pre-orders starting today. The company is planning to do a limited run of 5,000 and expects to ship to initial customers in the fall.