The mobile messaging software market has devolved into a nighttime soap opera: Everyone is somehow related, some of them nonetheless sleep together and most of them can’t stand each other. Oh, and they’re rich.
A major story arc right now is the continuing patent litigation between Research in Motion Ltd. (Nasdaq: RIMM) and NTP Inc., which was headed into a Virginia courtroom after PE Week went to press last Friday. A less noticed sidelight, however, is that privately held RIM competitors continue to raise enormous amounts of venture funding.
The latest example is Good Technology Inc., which recently secured nearly $40 million in new funding in a round led by ValueAct Capital with a $20 million commitment. Other backers included Benchmark Capital, Crosslink Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and k1 Ventures. The new round is technically the extension of a Series E round that previously had secured $55 million, and brings the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company’s overall venture capitalization to about $245 million.
Neither Good nor its major investors returned requests for comment on the company’s recent funding.
Good’s cash haul tops the $207 million raised by Visto Corp. and outpaces the $87 million VCs have invested in Seven Networks Ltd.
All of this funding might make more sense if companies such as Good and Visto were following the RIM model of providing both software and devices, but they mostly only provide software via a device/platform-agnostic carrier model. (Good created a device, but didn’t stick with it.) As it stands, however, certain market analysts can’t quite figure out where all the money is going.
“Good needed to reset its sales model last year, which probably cost a lot, but the amount they’ve raised is kind of amazing,” says Ken Dulaney, a mobile market analyst with Gartner. “I would have thought they’d have gone public for any additional capital.”
One possibility is that the venture capital is being used to pay legal bills. Visto has sued Good, Seven Networks and Microsoft for patent infringement, even though Visto shareholder NTP also has a stake in Good.
More likely, however, is that companies like Good are feeling pressure to ramp up both R&D and customer acquisition efforts due to increased market competition. Microsoft is the most notable player to join the mobile messaging space, while certain carriers soon might consider cutting out the middleman. Nokia leveraging its Intellisync acquisition is one such possibility.
Dulaney also suggests that free email providers like Google, Yahoo and MSN could take a shot. “I’m surprised they haven’t already,” he says.