CyanogenMod, which is leveraging Android to create a new smartphone platform in what is now a two horse race, just picked up $23 million in new funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. The round comes just months after picking up $7 million in a round led by Benchmark Capital.
The company is behind one of the most popular Android ROMs in the world — Cyanogen Mod. They’re turning what has long been a hobby project into a real business pioneering a direct-to-consumer route for delivering a mobile OS.
Consumers frustrated with the standard flavor of Android can flash their devices and replace their software experience with Cyanogen Mod, which boasts additional security and personalization features along with better speed. They have roughly 10 million users who have installed Cyanogen Mod without any expensive marketing efforts.
They built an installer that makes it dead-simple to flash your devices, but Google pulled it from their app store after roughly 300,000 downloads.
Co-founder Steve Kondik, who was one of the main developers behind Cyanogen Mod before leaving Samsung to start the company, said that the app should be back in the store sometime next year. Basically, it just needed to be clearer so that consumers understood what they were doing with their devices.
Kondik said the new round should help Cyanogen “hire like crazy in engineering, design and product.” That’s why they leapt at the new funding, despite such a short time gap between the first round and the second.
Andreessen Horowitz, in fact, actually passed on their first round, but changed their mind later.
“It’s rare to find a bet that’s a platform play. Everyone’s an app,” said CEO Kirt McMaster. “We’re not an app. We have the potential to be a big meaningful mobile platform.”
Indeed, both Benchmark and Andreessen Horowitz are betting that CyanogenMod could become a really OS in its own right, especially as hardware makers and software giants in Western markets and China look for ways to differentiate themselves on mobile devices. In China, there is an all-out war between multiple Android app stores and flavors of the OS. Xiaomi, the $10 billion hardware and software upstart in China, originally tapped Cyanogen when building their own custom ROM, the miUI.
“We believe that CM has the opportunity to become one of the world’s largest mobile operating systems,” wrote general partner Peter Levine in a blog post announcing the deal.
If they get that reach, Cyanogen could earn revenue through selling value-added services or by partnering with big hardware makers.
[Image: Flickr/Johan Larsson]