If mobile software startup Numobiq had a slogan, it might be “The network is the cell phone.” Founded by three veterans from Sun Microsystems, it wants to bring sophisticated applications to the simplest cell phones by keeping all the complexity in the network. CEO Mark Young and marketing VP Kenneth Lui both held key positions on Sun’s Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME) team, which brought Java to cell phones. Now, they’ve built a new virtual machine they think will take mobile apps to the next level.
The company was founded in November, 2005 and has been in stealth mode until now. Its software is complete and entered trials with mobile operators last year. Today, the company is announcing a $4.5 million A round from Benchmark Capital. I had a brief e-mail exchange with Benchmark partner Mitch Lasky to find out more.
Q: Why did you invest in Numobiq?
Lasky: I think the data services model for mobile phones is fundamentally broken. The existing model is just an extension of desktop computing paradigms, like browsing or discrete, downloaded applications. We need to rethink the way we do data services on phones. Numobiq’s solution is extremely elegant and carefully tailored to the unique needs of mobile devices and networks. It could have as profound an effect on the way data services are done in mobile as WAP or J2ME.
Q: Why is this not just another platform company?
Lasky: Like you, I have a negative reaction to mobile platform companies. Most of them are solving problems that don’t exist. Numobiq is a more comprehensive approach — it’s a new virtual machine sitting next to Java or BREW, a new client-server model built to bring web standards to the mobile phone, a data environment optimized for the mobile networks. The team helped build J2ME at Sun; they saw the benefits of a virtual machine that runs on billions of devices worldwide, but also the limits of the Java technology for mobile.
Ambition is good.