Creating Personal Supercomputers: Why We Funded Fractal

March 16, 2020
Investments

Dorm Room Fund is excited to announce our investment in Fractal, a company building software to stream the capabilities of a powerful GPU-powered Windows 10 workstation to any lightweight Windows, MacOS, Linux, or mobile device.

The founders of Fractal, Philippe Noël and Ming Ying, envision a world where the Internet is ubiquitous and each person owns a single cloud computer which they can access from all of their local devices. In this world, people never have to worry about buying or breaking hardware, losing data or applications, or being locked into an old device. 

Philippe and Ming started Fractal with a focus on creative professionals and productivity workers. These groups of people are currently burdened by the cost and difficulty of accessing powerful hardware from portable devices, but see personal cloud computers becoming the norm as the Internet infrastructure scales.

Personal Computing Needs an Upgrade

Today, creative professionals and freelancers, software developers, PC gamers, etc. require powerful computers to do their work, typically with a discrete GPU. Hardware this powerful is expensive and inconvenient to obtain and maintain, leaving those users locked into a specific configuration, often a desktop, and relying on underpowered laptops to do their work if they travel or chose not to buy a desktop. Enterprise computing has been democratized by the public clouds, but personal computing has yet to be. 

Fractal’s Solution - Transform Any Device Into a Supercomputer

Fractal solves this problem by streaming Windows 10, GPU-powered workstations to a user’s local device. In this way, users interact with a cloud computer at ultra-low latency from any device, meaning the only workload on a user’s local hardware is video decompression. This enables users to access powerful hardware at a native-level latency from any device, no matter how underpowered it is, and frees them from the burden of managing their own hardware and being locked into a specific configuration. Essentially, Fractal will give users a powerful GPU computer in a constantly upgraded, transportable size, at a fraction of the cost. 

Why Dorm Room Fund Invested

1. User-Focused and Data-Driven Founders: Philippe and Ming are thoughtful, technical, tenacious. From the very beginning of their story, we were inspired by the combination of these qualities. Philippe and Ming got their first 1000+ email sign-ups - as well as tons of feedback - in only a couple of days. And soon after that, they had automated a pipeline that would let them continuously get more user statistics and feedback. Simultaneously, they were hacking on an end-to-end demo to run on a super low power computer, using their user interviews to zero in on who the best starting customer would be, and talking to experts in the field. All of this happened so quickly that by the time we met them, their company already had a data-driven direction and a set of hypotheses being tested to learn as quickly as possible. They have already surveyed over 2,000 creative professionals and have seen a clear desire for Fractal. 

2. An Inflection Point for Computing: The world of computing used to be comprised of a few powerful machines being shared by many people, then shifted to many relatively slow personal computers. Now, the industry is once again shifting towards powerful data centers shared by many people and businesses. From general cloud computing to render farms to research compute clusters to game streaming, many people are discovering huge benefits from moving computation off-device. With the continuous improvements in internet connectivity we are seeing, it is possible to completely virtualize an operating system and just stream it to a personal device live. A user could change the performance of their system hour by hour to both manage their costs and handle any potential workload. They could change devices on the fly. They can even buy a device that might be cheaper, smaller, lighter, and have more battery life thanks to a lower load on the personal device. The opportunity here seems both probable and enormous. 

3. A Seamless Product Experience: Philippe and Ming have been focusing on a simple setup process with no ongoing maintenance required by users. They want to get as close as technically possible to making their product’s user experience match that of a regular computer. In their eyes, a cloud computer is just a better, simpler computer. They are also planning to own as much of the hardware and software stack as possible so that they can lower costs and optimize the user experience even more thoroughly. Philippe and Ming’s initial focus is on creative professionals and this will allow them to tailor their product even more and create users that don’t just like Fractal, but love it.

We love to see founders determined to push their vision for the future and accelerate technological progress in a way that can directly affect everyday people. We’re so excited to support Fractal in their mission, and can’t wait to see the amazing progress they’ll make.

Written by Jason Seibel, DRF Investment Partner (Boston). Cover Image by Alexandru Acea on Unsplash.

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