Microsoft is investing in the future of headphones.
Microsoft participated in the round. Its investment came directly from the company, not Microsoft’s venture capital arm M12, said Human CEO Bill Moore.
“Having a successful financing come together from both the investment community and a marquee strategic corporation like Microsoft not only brings tremendous validation to what Human is trying to achieve but also is pivotal in building strong momentum in the marketplace for our small independent company,” Moore told GeekWire.
The investment is not related to Microsoft’s surprising product announcement Tuesday: the $349 Surface Headphones.
Sage Venture Partners led Human’s $21 million round. Sugar Mountain Capital and Ropart Asset Management II also participated.
“Human Inc. offers a unique investment opportunity that is focused at the confluence of three important market trends: voice computing, smart wearables, and a dramatic increase in wireless headphone usage,” Fred Warren, founder of Sage Venture Partners, said in a statement.
Human is developing over-the-ear wireless headphones called Human Headphones that are a “natural extension of the ear” and let users touch, tap, and swipe to control audio. The product works with a smartphone app and is designed for “all-day comfort and fit.”
“The headphone market is ripe for innovation,” Human co-founder Ben Willis said in a statement. “Looking beyond today’s legacy headphone designs, we see a huge opportunity for a new form factor designed specifically for busy, digital natives who wear headphones throughout the day.”
Human raised more than $500,000 in an Indiegogo campaign in October 2016, but has delayed delivery of the headphones to 2,300-plus backers by more than one year from its original target date. The company still plans to ship headphones to original backers.
Human last raised cash in April 2016, a $5 million round. That’s when it hired Moore, formerly leader of RootMetrics, as its new CEO. Human raised a $700,000 seed round in 2015. Investors include early backers of Amazon and Apple.
Willis co-founded Human with Joe Dieter, who no longer does full-time work with the company. Other executives include CFO Ron Stevens, formerly a financial exec at RootMetrics and Haggen; Chief Product Officer Paul Cole, previously a vice president of product development at T-Mobile; and Eliza Arango-Vargas, vice president of engineering who spent eight years at Microsoft working on products including Zune. The company has 40 employees.
Wireless headphones have become more prevalent over the past few years, particularly with the popularity of Apple’s $159 AirPods.