8 Hot Mobile Startups to Watch

Just how big of a deal is mobile? Three years ago there were an estimated 400 venture capital deals for mobile companies, with about $3 billion invested in the industry. Last year, according to Rutberg & Co., which tracks mobile investments, VCs poured more than $6.85 billion into mobile startups across about a thousand deals. Mobile companies captured 40% of venture capital funding last year, Rutberg found.

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Nils Bunger, the CEO and co-founder, really likes doing startups; he's already founded desktop virtualization company Pano Logic, and then he spent time as the entrepreneur-in-residence at Foundation Capital, where he advised other startups. His two MobileSpan co-founders had a company that Google acquired and they went on to help develop Chrome.

Taking that expertise, MobileSpan was founded as a way to enable Microsoft apps to run on mobile devices, while providing security controls to the IT department. Through a combination of an on-premises gateway and an iOS application, users can access Microsoft applications like SharePoint and others, granularly control which documents are available online or offline, set security controls related to access of that data. The app basically enables mobile devices to use those Microsoft apps, while providing DropBox-like functionality to storing and synching data across devices. On the front end, it uses many of the VDI-type capabilities Bunger has worked on, while the back end is based largely off of Google Chrome.

Microsoft apps are used commonly throughout the enterprise, but today their functionality is not optimized for mobile devices. There are web-based versions of the apps, but those don't provide IT departments with the control they need to dictate which data is available to which devices. On top of that, MobileSpan gives synching and sharing capabilities across devices as well. The company has received about $2.3 million from True Ventures, Greylock, K9 Ventures and Alchemist Accelerator.

Sky Giraffe: Big data for little devices

There are business intelligence tools on the market optimized for mobile usage, but those have a problem, says Boaz Hecht, co-founder of Israel-based Sky Giraffe.

A complete BI product usually requires a company to upload all of its data into the system, creating a logistical nightmare for configuring the system with legacy data storage and business process applications.

Hecht saw an opportunity in the market to provide a mobile-optimized and simpler BI product. Sky Giraffe provides a software overlay, with the added ability to edit content. This allows businesses to easily within hours, he says configure their existing data storage systems, including SQL and Oracle databases as well as enterprise apps, for viewing and editing on mobile devices.

Say, for example, that a services company with offices across the U.S. sends out a daily log of order requests along with an automated system for ordering parts to replenish the stock. Sky Giraffe is able to plug into this environment, allowing the data sets to be presented on mobile devices using the company's native iOS, Android and Windows applications. Users can view the charts and data from these systems in the mobile app, and even edit the documents in the system. After a quick install, the daily request and orders for that company would be available to view in a nifty graphical user interface. Using Sky Giraffe, the IT department of small and midsized enterprises can configure which employees have access to which data to ensure they only see information that is relevant to them.

Founded in February 2012, Sky Giraffe is growing up quickly in Israel's tech hub. The company has received an undisclosed amount of seed funding after being self-funded by its two co-founders, who have experience in BI, cloud, application and mobile consulting. As part of the Microsoft Accelerator program in Tel Aviv, Hecht has been exposed to a variety of startups and industry executives, which he says will help fuel additional partnerships down the line. A

Workspot: BYOD without heavy-handed mobile device management

Ty Wang, one of the founders of A Workspot, say his company is getting right in the middle of the power struggle between IT departments, who want control of user devices, and end users, who want to keep the privacy of their own personal devices but still use them for work.

Workspot is an application that sits on an Apple iPad and allows connectivity through an SSL VPN to enterprise applications. Because it's an application, it allows users to keep control over the rest of their devices, while at the same time providing IT the ability to monitor and manage what the user does in the application.

Right now, Workspot provides integration with a variety of enterprise apps from Oracle, SAP and Microsoft, with more to come. Users can view documents and browse programs, but the app does not yet provide the ability to make changes to the applications.

Another key to Workspot are the analytics that come baked in. The application sends data back to a central cloud-based repository, which can then be accessed by IT managers, allowing them to control access policies for users, and track the usage of certain applications on the device. This gives IT operators powerful control into the devices, including the ability to wipe the application from the device if a user leaves the company, all while allowing the user to maintain control of their own devices outside of the Workspot app.

WorkSpot runs on a freemium model in which the application allowing the access to the business applications is free, but the tools for IT to monitor and manage the application costs about $4 per user per month. Founded in the summer of 2012, the company launched out of stealth mode earlier this year and has raised about $2 million from venture firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Norwest, Redpoint, along with some angel investments as well. A

Wang and his co-founders have established a small but experienced team to launch the company, including former executives from Citrix, VMware and Twilio.

Network World senior writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing and social collaboration. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW.

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This story, "8 Hot Mobile Startups to Watch" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.

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