Netbiscuits, the mobile development platform that has worked with the likes of eBay, Google, Coca-Cola and 15,000 other developers on their mobile web services, is ramping up its game as smartphone usage continues to accelerate worldwide. The company today is announcing that it has raised $27 million in a Series C round. This also marks the first time that Netbiscuits, which says it hosts over 110,000 mobile web apps and sites, has disclosed the value of a raise since first opening for business in 2000. This latest investment was led by new investor Stripes Group, and also had participation from existing investors T-Venture (Deutsche Telekom’s VC arm) and Creathor.
Co-founder and CEO Michael Neidhoefer tells TechCrunch that the investment is a sign of the “tipping point” that we are now seeing in mobile web usage, and how companies like his are taking investment now to meet that opportunity: “Mobile phones are in many places outselling PCs,” he notes. But with the market still showing little sign of consolidation, companies are investing to build their own businesses to grow organically. “We will be using this to invest in sales, marketing and R&D, but acquisitions are not part of our strategy.” In addition to working with brands on their B2C offerings, Netbiscuits also provides a platform for B2B enterprise mobility services.
Because of Netbiscuits’ legacy — it was founded in 2000, when WAP was often still the only game in town — it has a strong tie to offering development, publishing and monetizing services on mobile web sites. Neidhoefer says that this is still the case today, as usage moves away from feature devices and on to tablets and smartphones.
Although Netbiscuits was founded in Germany, Neidhoefer says that more than 50% of its business is currently in North America, with Europe a strong number two and the followed by Asia Pacific and Latin America. That also translates to a stronger market for smartphone-based applications.
And while there is some evidence that app usage is pulling away from mobile web as the main way that people access content on those handheld devices, Neidhoefer says that in fact a lot of those native apps — especially on Android — are just HTML5 in native wrappers. And that is only becoming more common.
“Native apps can be hard to maintain and expensive,” he says. “So there is a need to move to HTML5. Over the next two years, some 50% of all native apps will be hybrids.” Which just happens to be exactly where Netbiscuits sits as a business. He says that this is particularly true in ecosystems like Android’s, which faces fragmentation not only in devices but also in versions of the platform. Gartner, incidentally, takes Neidhoefer’s 50% one step further: it says that by 2015, eighty percent of all mobile applications developed will be hybrid or mobile-Web-oriented.
He also believes, like many supporters of HMTL5, that the gap between native app functionality and what can be done on HTML5 is closing — although that point of view can be problematic in the present day, where high-profile companies like Facebook have made very pronounced about-faces on their mobile web strategies by taking some steps back into native apps after finding the experience on HTML5 on platforms like iOS simply not good enough.
Despite hiccups like this, though, there’s still a lot of belief that the mobile web will be the way ahead, says Netbiscuits’ new investor: “The mobile web market is seeing huge growth and the Netbiscuits team is leading the industry in cutting-edge mobile web solutions. From our perspective the timing of this investment is ideal and it will allow Netbiscuits to ride the crest of the mobile web wave,” Dan Marriott, managing partner at Stripes Group, said in a statement.