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Former Microsoft exec Anoop Gupta, CEO and co-founder, with Aravind Bala, CTO and co-founder. Their startup is developing a new messaging service called Telo. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)
Former Microsoft exec Anoop Gupta, Telo CEO and co-founder, with Aravind Bala, CTO and co-founder.  (GeekWire File Photo / Todd Bishop)

Telo, a messaging startup led by former Microsoft executive and distinguished scientist Anoop Gupta, has raised $2.2 million in funding in its pursuit of a new communication service that empowers and delivers value to recipients of messages, rather than senders or social networks.

The seed round was disclosed in an SEC filing this week and confirmed by Gupta, Telo’s CEO, who said via email that the startup has brought on board “some incredible investors” from both the Bay Area and the Seattle region. The company isn’t yet identifying those investors or talking in detail about its plans.

However, in an earlier interview with GeekWire, Gupta and co-founder Aravind Bala, a former Microsoft partner engineering manager, talked about their goals through a series of “what if” questions: What if users had a public address that they could share confidently, where they could receive relevant messages in a system that enabled meaningful interactions and conversations, discouraged misuse and spam, and provided value to recipients?

Here’s how the company’s website explains the concept.

Telo lets you decide who you want to hear from and which topics you are interested in connecting about. You establish the guidelines for that communication without interference from Internet advertisers or recruiters seeking to leverage your network for their own means. If somebody wants to reach out to you outside of those guidelines, they pay for that communication just as they would an ad except, with Telo, the money comes to you – keep the money or send it to a charity of your choosing.

On his LinkedIn page, Gupta writes that the company believes “life-changing opportunities arise when we move beyond the familiar, exploring options beyond what is known to us, reaching out beyond our immediate network of co-workers and friends.” The goal is to provide professionals “with visibility, transparency and access to the landscape of opportunities available to them – and the means to find, reach and be reached by people who can help them seize those opportunities.”

Gupta left Microsoft in November after nearly 20 years, including two years as technical assistant to Bill Gates, and four years leading Microsoft’s Unified Communications Group. He was an associate computer science professor at Stanford University from 1987 to 1997, also serving as co-founder and chief scientist at the startup VXtreme in Sunnyvale, Calif., based on early virtual classroom technologies developed at Stanford.

Bala, a 15-year Microsoft veteran, spent time on products including Windows, Bing and AdCenter before working with Gupta on the Office Mix presentation service.

Telo, based in Bellevue, Wash., was originally founded under the name ZipStorm. The company is currently accepting signups for its waitlist for the forthcoming Telo service.

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