Urban Airship has been working pretty hard of late to plant itself firmly on the “Startups to Watch” list. The Portland and San Francisco-based startup, a platform provider that gives developers a simple way to build in-app purchases and push notifications into their mobile apps, grabbed some media attention when it acquired SimpleGeo back in October for $3 million. As SimpleGeo provided location-based services and data to mobile developers, the acquisition made a lot of sense for Urban Airship, providing a complement to its push notifications focus; and given the early hype around SimpleGeo, it was a bargain. (Plus, there was the added benefit of getting the founders as advisors.)
Less than a month later, the startup followed that by announcing it had raised $15 million series C from Verizon, Salesforce.com, True Ventures, Foundry Group, and others.
At the same time, Intel announced its AppUp Fund — a $100 million fund designed to invest in startups and enterprises developing apps and software tools for mobile devices and PCs — and Urban Airship (along with 4tiitoo) was one of the first startups chosen to receive funding from Intel’s AppUp. Intel participated in Urban Airship’s series C round, whereupon it capped the deal off by signing a business collaboration agreement with Intel Software and Services Group on top of the investment.
Then Urban Airship discovered (by happy accident) that its push notifications worked on Amazon’s new Kindle Fire out of the box without having to further customize its code. I mean it almost starts to sound ridiculous, unless you want to say that luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.
Furthermore, last week, Christopher Dean joined Urban Airship from Skype, where he was formerly Chief Strategy Officer, and held a number of other positions, including leading Skype’s global business development. Dean became Urban Airship’s Chief Revenue Officer, and followed the startup’s recent hiring of the Second Porch Founder as CMO. The former Skype CSO has more than two decades worth of experience with early-stage companies and helping them connect with strategic partners, finding ways to grow revenue, as well as locating new distribution channels — all areas of priority for Urban Airship — which makes this a great pick up.
As if this doesn’t already sound like a series of high fives, today Urban Airship hit an impressive milestone for a young startup, as it has now served over 10 billion push notifications since launching two years ago. Just last August, the company announced its 5 billionth push, which shows how quickly Urban Airship (and push notifications) are scaling. That’s one billion pushes a month. Obviously, this is only going to continue as mobile operating systems retool their interfaces to better organize and serve notifications (like iOS 5 and the iPhone 4S), and as more and more developers integrate smart notifications into their apps, etc etc.
It may sound like hot air, but this really does seem to be a testament to how quickly push notifications have become a vital part of marketing for app developers — and when it comes to this space, and helping those developers do push better, Urban Airship is definitely a part of the conversation. As for a broader industry perspective, Forrester Research recently released a report called “The New Messaging Mandate”, recommending best practices for mobile marketers looking to get a better handle on integrated messaging and communications via mobile. Interestingly, for the first time (by an independent, third-party firm), push notifications was given recognition, as Forrester said that push notifications now can actually deliver on the promise of integrated messaging — with improved efficiency, scale, and reliability. (Urban Airship was also mentioned therein.)
In practice, as the startup works with several teams in the NHL to automate notifications through their mobile apps, pushing messages to the teams’ fans based on geolocation, season ticket holder status, favorite team and players, and live game action, you can see where the appeal is looking forward. For marketing, mobile messaging is going to play a big part in the next phase, and push notifications are going to be right there along for the ride. Urban Airship and those like it only stand to benefit.