Airbnb picks up Pencil, Cambridge startup that built scheduling app


Airbnb has quietly acquired a small Cambridge startup, Pencil Labs. Pencil Labs had built a scheduling app called Wyth that was intended to eliminate some of the headaches of coordinating get-togethers with friends. Three of the key players at Pencil, including co-founders Carla Pellicano and Han Shu, have already relocated to San Francisco, where Airbnb is based.

Pencil’s scheduling app never took off — perhaps because it tried to supplant e-mails, texts, and Facebook messages as a way of coordinating dinners or bowling outings with friends. By analyzing what was said in messages, the app tried to home in on convenient times and places to get together and add them to everyone’s calendar; I reviewed the app in June, and it hasn’t been updated since then.

I originally wrote about Pencil in 2013, not long after it was funded by Matrix Partners and CRV. The startup raised about $1 million in seed funding, according to several sources close to the company, and spoke with a few different California-based tech giants about an acquisition before hashing out a deal with Airbnb in late October. This is the first time that the lodging player has bought a local startup, and it seems sensible that a team with experience in messaging and scheduling might be valuable to Airbnb.

I haven’t been able to determine the purchase price, and Pellicano and Airbnb haven’t responded to e-mails requesting comment.

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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