Austin’s Unwired Nation raises $6.5 million for expansion in mobile market
By Lori Hawkins
Eighteen months after changing its business focus, Austin software maker Unwired Nation has raised $6.5 million for expansion in the mobile market.
The company, founded in 2004, originally developed software that let companies automate their telephone calls to customers. For instance, it teamed with eBay in 2006 to send auction and bidding activity by phone calls to customers in North America.
But in 2009, Unwired Nation shifted away from that model, which had been slow to take off, to focus on the surging mobile app market.
The following year, the company launched its Mobile Cloud Platform, which lets customers convert Web pages to apps for most smartphone platforms. Unwired Nation targets software companies that need to convert their Web applications to run on iPhones, Android devices and tablet computers.
“A single company can have thousands of branded Web applications that need to be converted, managed and deployed,” said Eric Smith, Unwired Nation’s co-founder and CEO. “Each one needs to have its own look and feel.”
The $6.5 million investment was made by a group of 15 angel investors led by Dale Quisenberry, founder of Austin-based Crossroads Systems.
The company had raised $8 million from venture investors including DFJ Mercury, Accent Capital, Aegis Capital and Geffinor Ventures. In 2008, Smith led the buyback of the company from those investors by restructuring the company’s debt agreements.
Today, Unwired Nation has 12 customers, including e-banking software company Q2ebanking and uShip, which hosts online auctions for shipping services. Unwired Nation doesn’t disclose financial information.
The new funding “is all about accelerating our business,” Smith said. “In 2012, we’re going to make significant investments in sales, engineering and marketing. The company has kind of been flying under the radar for a while, and it’s all about getting the word out about what we’re doing.”
Last year, Unwired Nation graduated from the Austin Technology Incubator and moved to new offices on Jollyville Road. It has 15 employees and could hire as many as 15 more this year, Smith said.
Quisenberry invested in Unwired Nation, he said, because “it had the three things I look for: people, timing and product. Mobile is the new Web, and they’ve found a powerful way to help commercial business-to-business folks with that transition.”
The perseverance of Smith and his team also stood out, Quisenberry said.
“A lot of times in a startup, the direction you’re going in doesn’t gel, and sometimes you give up the ship,” he said. “These guys kept the ship afloat all this time, and I respect that.”