Whrrl feels very much like a dormant technology that, like other mobile apps, has the potential to explode after the new iPhone – both in terms of software and hardware – gets unleashed next month.
In its current form, Whrrl works only on the BlackBerry Pearl and Curve. It therefore struggles to foster the social network it so dearly needs to become useful to more than a small group of early adopters. But it’s clear that Pelago has placed its future in the hands of RIM’s rude archenemy, Apple, which has much greater appeal to the consumer market. When Kleiner Perkins launched its so-called “iFund” for the financing of iPhone apps in March, the venture capital firm reclassified its previous $5.6 million investment in Pelago as the first iFund investment.
Now Pelago has raised an additional $15 million from Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile Venture Fund, Reliance, and DAG Ventures (among former investors) in preparation for international expansion once the iPhone’s second coming arrives. According to CEO Jeff Holden, Pelago will unveil some major functionality in the next couple of months (including Loopt-like friend tracking). And he says that the iPhone is “extremely important” to its plans, suggesting that this functionality will center around that device (despite upcoming support for a variety of feature phones as well).
The startup wants to position itself internationally before foreign companies take the big ideas behind its new functionality and run with them. An alliance with Deustsche Telekom is meant to help Pelago lockdown Europe, and Reliance should help in India.
Holden says he wants ultimately for Whrrl to become the “indispensable mobile companion”. That’s a high hope and one surely shared by other mobile developers who are clammoring to build ontop the iPhone platform. This sizable round of strategic funding will at least give Pelago the reserves it needs to establish itself as a major next-gen mobile developer.