Fleksy, a Barcelona-based mobile keyboard software company, has secured a $1.6million Series A to secure a pivotal role in b2b for white-label SDKs for Android and iOS.
Inveready, a Spanish asset management company, leads the round. Simile Venture Partners and SOSV provide follow-on funding.
The Series A raises the total amount raised by the team to just below $3M (EUR2.5M) since 2015.
The AI keyboard maker has been a player in third-party smartphone keyboard space for a while. It initially developed a productivity-focused keyboard called ThingThing before purchasing the assets of the more well-known US-based custom keyboard Fleksy. This was after it had fallen into stasis following the acquisition by Pinterest.
It is difficult to monetize in the custom keyboard space for consumers. Features like next word prediction or swipe input are now built into native smartphone keyboards. This reduces the value of third-party add-ons.
Google and Apple are tech giants that also do their best to throw their weight around in unique ways. You can see the flaky implementation on iOS of third-party keyboards that helps users avoid switching to Apple’s native keyboard. Or the unfun Google Play Store did for awhile.
Fleksy launched an SDK last year to license its keyboard tech for other app makers and businesses that want powerfully predictive, context-specific and custom AI keyboard software. They can tint, brand, and adapt it in many different ways.
Third parties could also use the keyboard SDK to learn more about users and/or drive sales.
Clients can use the SDK to implement potential features. Fleksy lists several options that clients can use via its website, including the ability to insert context-specific advertising into their keyboard (aka “hyper-contextually recommend products and services or set triggers that show your brand in every app at the right time”) and a CRM feature Fleksy claims will allow shops to send marketing materials and invoices, update, tasks and collect payment directly from the keyboard.
It also promises security-focused features that are “coming soon” — including custom tweaks that could be used to “prevent information leaks and sensitive data from getting out, monitor employees at-risk, Secure messages, prevent fraudulent behavior.”
Fleksy is also active in the consumer market. It emphasizes user privacy to be a distinct advantage over alternatives such as Google’s Gboard, which sends search data to Google. And it recently tried to attract consumers with art keyboards.
However, its center of gravity clearly has shifted to B2B. It has therefore placed the ‘Fleksy for Business branding on its website. This site also received a deeptech aesthetic makeover.
However, the consumer keyboard will be around for those who are really into it and as a showcase/testbed.
“Consumer is difficult when giants don’t compete equally. You can see how Google and Apple have messed up. We found our niche. Helping others create an exceptional keyboard experience and beyond via license fees,” said Fleksy’s CEO Olivier Plante. Plante was also the CEO and cofounder of ThingThing. It’s difficult to build what you have, so it’s a no-brainer for these digital companies.
“Fleksy SDK provides all the tools that companies need to succeed in their own rationale,” he tells us when we ask him about the privacy of third parties using its keyboard tech to spy on their users. “Fleksy is only playing a technical role.” We do not have any connection to a client’s privacy.
He added, “To be precise, Fleksy Consumer Apps (we don’t change the rationale there),”
Fleksy claims it has now licensed its technology to “dozens” of companies and boasts that 50 more are in its pipeline. Fleksy also claims that its SDK business has seen a 10x increase in revenue over the past year.
This is why the Series A, per Plante, is relatively small.
TechCrunch is told that they only needed it because they are making a lot of cash at the moment. He also said that the reason to raise a Series A right now was to “expand quicker”.
The new funds will be used to grow, hire (to strengthen its 13-strong team), and expand its client portfolio.
Fleksy’s most important markets for licensing keyboard tech are currently the US and Europe, but Plante claims it has customers around the globe.
The SDK attracts a wide range of customers, from gaming and digital health to fintech and financial services.
He suggests that there are many people looking for keyboard experiences.
“We have clients of all kinds with diverse needs. Because we built everything ourselves — no third-party’s black-box — it is possible to customize everything for them. This is something that no other company can offer today. He says that companies interested in digital health, for instance, have a partner who is financially sound and has complete control over their tech stack.”
The Fleksy SDK is flexible. You can change the layout, dictionary, core engines, and even the algorithms that power autocorrect, predictions, sentiment, and more. This is what makes us the best choice, but as you all know, the vision of Fleksy is larger. “Typing on a computer screen will soon be typing on Fleksy.”
Inveready’s Ignacio Fonts has joined Fleksy’s board as part of the Series-A funding round.
Fonts stated in a statement that they were thrilled to be joining the Fleksy team. The Fleksy team has been able achieve a global leadership position in keyboard technology. This is one of the key points for personal computing (phones, tablets, and desktops). They will use this round to accelerate the development and release a compelling roadmap which will allow users to interact with their devices in new ways. It will also give companies insight into their customers.