Visto, SkyFire charged for growth

With smart phones proliferating, and wireless plans soaking up an ever-larger share of disposable income, it’s no wonder that venture-backed providers of mobile backend services and rich media are expanding.

That was the take from many of the startups presenting at last week’s CTIA Wireless I.T. & Entertainment expo in San Francisco. At least a half-dozen venture-backed companies, some of which raised startup funding in the 1990s, introduced new services coinciding with the event. A few of the richly funded companies are charging up their hiring activity, rolling out new services, and—in a few cases—moving closer to profitability. Several companies that recently raised financing also elaborated on how they plan to put the money to use.

With the exit climate for wireless companies rather frosty this year, companies are focused on building themselves up to survive as standalone ventures. Many of the presenting companies were ambitious and are targeting international markets.

Quickoffice, a Plano, Texas-based developer of mobile office software, announced the rollout of two services for transferring and working with documents on wireless phones. The company also recently acquired DynoPlex, a developer of document management applications for Blackberry handsets. Quickoffice, founded in 1996, initially developed document software for Palm handheld computers. The company has raised $21.5 million in venture funding from Mayfield Fund, J.F. Shea & Co., Advantage Capital Partners, J.P. Morgan Partners and Shepherd Ventures.

Streamezzo, a Paris-based developer of a software platform that works across handset operating systems, announced that its platform is now certified for interoperability on hundreds of mobile devices, and that engineers are certifying approximately 50 new devices each month. The company, which has raised $48 million since 2004 from Sofinnova Ventures, AXA Private Equity, I-Source Gestion, National Technology Enterprises Co. and Qualcomm Ventures, is competing with Google’s Android project to develop an interoperable platform for mobile applications.

Visto, a provider of e-mail service to mobile phones, is expanding into social networking. The company last week introduced a “Push Mobile Social Networking Solution” that allows users to receive updates from contacts’ pages on Facebook and other social networking sites and email programs. Redwood City, Calif.-based Visto has raised $266 million since 1996 from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Oak Investment Partners, 3i, Spectrum Equity Investors, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Rustic Canyon Partners, Blueprint Ventures and Meritech Capital Partners.

MobiTV, the Emeryville, Calif.-based provider of mobile television and music services, is launching a new service that will deliver business news to wireless handsets. The company, which currently has about 4 million subscribers who receive the content through their wireless carrier plan, has raised $118 million in venture funding since 2001 from Menlo Ventures, Oak Investment Partners, Sorrento Ventures, Hearst Corp., Adobe Systems, Redpoint Ventures, Gefinor Ventures and TriplePoint Capital.

SkyFire, the Mountain View, Calif.-based developer of a free browser for smartphones geared for rich media, hasn’t disclosed how many users it’s attracted since launching a beta version in February. CEO Nitin Bhandari says that the user base has grown by about 20% a month. He says that he’s focused on increasing that number as he looks to monetize traffic. “It’s really hard to sell premium content,” he says. “Ad-supported is what everything becomes.” Skyfire has raised $18 million in total funding since 2007, including a $13 million infusion in May, from Trinity Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Matrix Partners.

Networks in Motion (NIM) the Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based provider of GPS navigation for mobile phones, is providing the backend for a service AT&T announced last week called AAA Mobile navigator. NIM has raised $16.4 million since 2004 from Sutter Hill Ventures, Mission Ventures and Redpoint Ventures.