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53FiftyThree, maker of the sketching and illustration app Paper, the Apple 2012 iPad App of the Year, has scored $15 million in fresh funding from Andreessen Horowitz, Highline Ventures, Thrive Capital, SV Angels and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey.

The company has offices in New York and Seattle, and the new funds will be used to make a big push into collaboration tools and hardware.

“We believe a breakthrough around collaboration will revolutionize the creative process. How we work together. How we discover new collaborators to work with,” the company writes in a blog post. It adds that the “physical world of accessories opens up creating with greater dexterity and expressiveness.”

paper-appThat means FiftyThree will likely expand beyond its roots as an app maker, even though Paper has achieved enormous success to date with more than eight million downloads. The app is free to download, though add-on tools cost a small amount.

As The Verge notes, FiftyThree appears to be going after the tool set of Microsoft’s Office, just with a mobile lens on the world.

The team behind FiftyThree should have a pretty good handle on that landscape, since many of them previously worked at Microsoft.

Founders of the company include Julian Walker, who previously worked on Bing Maps and Seadragon; Georg Petschnigg, the former head of Microsoft’s Pioneer Studios, the incubator that helped design the Courier; and Andrew S. Allen, who also worked on the ill-fated Courier device.

Interestingly, the new Seattle office will focus on hardware. The office, located in the University District, already employs 10 folks. That’s nearly half of the company’s 22-person staff.

harris-johnJon Harris, a co-founder of FiftyThree who previously worked on Microsoft products such as Zune, Courier and Xbox, is leading the Seattle operation. Other hardware vets on the team in the Seattle office include engineers Jim Koo, who previously worked on consumer devices at Sonos and at RealNetworks and Microsoft, and Ian McDuff, a University of Washington grad and veteran of Seattle defibrillator maker Heartstream.

The company is planning to hire between 10 and 15 new employees across the Seattle and New York Offices this year. 

In a blog post, Andreessen Horowitz’s Chris Dixon says that FiftyThree did not have to raise money. He describes them as “one of the most innovative design and engineering teams in the world.”

“In the past, they reimagined how we play games, view images, listen to music, create documents, and more,” Dixon writes. “With FiftyThree, they are rethinking the very way we create and collaborate on ideas.”

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