Paper iPad app gets $15M for more productivity software, services — and hardware

Would you buy hardware from an iPad journal company? FiftyThree, the company behind one of the most beloved (and successful) iPad(s AAPL) apps, Paper, is betting on it. And so is an impressive group of investors: on Tuesday the company plans to reveal it has nailed down a Series A funding round led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from Bright Capital, Highline Ventures, SV Angel and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey.

Paper iPad app by Fifty Three

Paper arrived in March 2012 and managed to wow a lot of iPad users immediately with its beautiful design. The app enabled users to create digital watercolors, drawings paintings, journals, outlines and more on the relatively large screen of the iPad. It was chosen as the best iPad app of the year by Apple at the end of last year.

It has also been one of the top-grossing apps: it regularly appears in the top 10 iPad apps that bring in the most money.

To date, Paper has 80 million downloads and the company says 80 million projects have been created with the app.

“Since we launched Paper we’ve been profitable,” co-founder and CEO Georg Petschnigg told me. “But for us this [funding] is about taking business to the next level.”

For FiftyThree, that next level is about adding to its 22-person team (that’s split about even among designers and engineers in offices in Seattle and New York City). It’s also about more than one app. Petschnigg foresees expanding to an entire suite of software, services and hardware.

FiftyThree’s team is actually full of veterans of the hardware industry — people who worked on projects like Microsoft’s Xbox,(s MSFT) Kinect and Courier, as well as Sonos — so it will be interesting to see what they come up with. An obvious pairing with the app would be a Paper-branded stylus, but Petschnigg wouldn’t elaborate on what kind of hardware they have in mind — or when it will arrive.

“We’ve been focused on iPad there, but the next part we’re working on is services that will start to answer the question of how people work together and collaborate,” he added. Without giving any more detail, he seemed to imply that collaboration means among several different platforms, not just Apple’s tablet.