Mammoth, a recently launched mastodon app that aims to make it easier for those who want to join the decentralized social web, has prominent financial backers. The company has confirmed that its main pre-seed investor is open web proponent Mozilla. Mozilla invested in the company’s first public round, along with others such as Long Journey Ventures and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff.
The company also has a unique founding story. The app was originally created by his iOS developer Shihab Mehboob, creator of many apps, including the whimsical music app Vinyls and his Twitter client Aviary 2. His Twitter client at the party, he urged Mehboob to turn his attention to his Mastodon, his decentralized and open-source alternative to Twitter.
Mammoth was the result of these efforts, but was later acquired by the company currently running the project, headed by lead developer Bart Decrem.
The Mammoth team currently consists of three full-time employees and several contractors. The total amount of the investment round was not disclosed, but Decrem characterized the pre-seed as small. “One million or twenty thousand is a common round,” he says, at this stage.
Mammoth’s new founder’s background is both open source and consumer apps, in addition to entrepreneurship.
In ’99 Decrem worked on a Linux startup called Eazel whose goal was to make Linux easier to use. Decrem was with the Mozilla Foundation prior to the release of his Firefox 1.0, although other members of the project later went on to work at Apple where he built Safari and other technologies. There, he was responsible for marketing and business operations, working on branding and international launches. He also participated in search monetization discussions, including his first Google search deal.
He then went on to more entrepreneurial endeavors, such as the VC-backed social web browser Flock (which had a good chunk of TechCrunch coverage at the time). After the latter’s acquisition of Mobile, he joined Disney as head of the Gaming Group, launching products such as the ‘Where’s My Water’ series and ‘Temple Run’ titles.
Some of these previous efforts also included the same approach of finding and partnering with existing developers, including the original Tap Tap Revenge developers. Later at Disney, in his QA, in the App Store he found the developer who created the #1 game, but not Disney’s brand. Decrem invited the developer into his group and gave him the space to create the title “Where’s My Water?”
“My favorite way to do it is to find someone special and go out of their way to support their vision,” explains Decrem. “I saw the spark [Mammoth founder] Shihab [Mehboob], which is why we are working together. “
The two teamed up as Decrem ran a small lab that was working on decentralized projects, including a cryptographic app called KyrptoSign for legal documents on the blockchain and an art collective. However, when Mastodon came along, the team changed course and acquired Mammoth, now the sole focus of the group.
For Decrem, the appeal of Mastodon wasn’t just that it was an open-source Twitter clone. This, which he said he found only “somewhat interesting,” was where a community was forming.
“It reminded me of Firefox 0.7 when I got involved with Mozilla — the launch of Firefox,” says Decrem. “I just felt like there are people here who are nerdy and doing cool things…it’s exciting and interesting and it feels like everything I love about the internet. The community is You are building and organizing yourself.
“It’s half microblogging, half people organizing communities like Reddit and Discord,” he continues. “It’s like a digital native social system. And it’s decentralized. It’s insanely cool.
Other companies also seem to think it’s cool. Today, Flipboard announced that it will join the decentralized social web. It’s already on Medium, but Tumblr said it will.
Of course, the challenge for Mammoth is not only to make the decentralized social web more attractive to more new entrants, but also to successfully sustain and generate revenue from the app itself. Decrem says the company will be making subscription plans available for $3-$5 per month in the coming months, at least half of which will likely go to various bills for his Mastodon servers. … apparently …
But earnings are not the immediate focus. Expanding the user base is the number one priority. So far, thanks to Mozilla’s backing, Mammoth has at least a year’s worth of funding for him, Decrem says. And they are patiently waiting, he points out.
Updated on February 28, 2023 at 9:52 PM to clarify that the Subscription Fund supports not only its own Mastodon server, but also other Mastodon servers.