Money Flows To Mobile Startups: Appia, Apperian, Bubble Motion, And Others

It may not be $41 million, but there are still serious funds flowing into the mobile sector at the moment, and the companies taking advantage of the loosened purse strings are all over the map in terms of what they’re doing to get investors’ attention. Today the white-label app store operator Appia, and the voice-based social network Bubble Motion each announced that they were picking up $10 million in investment. The news follows recent funding announcements for Apperian ($9.5 million), Newsy ($1.5 million), Sundrop ($900,000) and MobiCart ($500,000).
White-label app store Appia today announced that it has raised a $10 million round of investment from Venrock, the VC firm started by the Rockefeller family. Dev Khare, the VP of Venrock, will join Appia’s board as part of the deal.
The primary business for Appia is offering a white-label app store that partners with various mobile operators, portals and other brands looking to get into that business but not wanting to go through the whole process of setting up and building out the inventory for it alone. Currently there are some 130,000 apps in Appia’s catalogue.
Among recent deals, the mobile browser developer Opera recently launched a store with Appia — which resulted in the Opera app getting ejected from GetJar’s app store for violating a non-compete clause.
Getting taken off GetJar’s store might impact Opera’s traffic to some extent, but tut that kind of head doesn’t seem to be deterring investors. This most recent funding comes after a $15 million round raised last August from Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures and the BlackBerry Partners Fund, when the company was still called PocketGear — it rebranded as Appia in Feburary. Total funding for the company now stands at $29.8 million.
Another play at app stores, but from the enterprise angle, has also seen some investment: Apperian, started by the ex-Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) employee Chuck Goldman, has picked up $9.5 million in funding led by North Bridge Venture Partners, Bessemer Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers’ (KPCB) iFund, with participation also from CommonAngels and LaunchCapital, who provided the startup with seed funding.
Apperian’s main idea is to provide a platform to enterprises so that they can effectively create their own walled app stores for their employees — a big area not only for smartphone use but for the growing number of tablets that are getting adopted by businesses. Apperian currently provides this service for the iOS platform (iPhones and iPads) but will be extending it to Android soon.
Bubble Motion, which runs the voice-based social networking service Bubbly, has raised $10 million. The round was led by SingTel Innov8, the pan-Asian operator SingTel Group’s VC fund, with participation also from Singapore’s Infocomm Investments, Sequoia Capital, Palomar Ventures, and NGC.
Since launching one year ago, Bubbly has picked up 7 million users in India, Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines, which follows a similar structure to Twitter with followers and the like, except that instead of posting short texts people can post audio clips. The funding will be used to extend the service into further countries and to expand to more platforms such as smartphones, the mobile web and more service provider partnerships (like Twitter’s early days, it bases a lot of its current messaging around deals with individual mobile operator partnerships).
Sundrop Mobile has picked up $900,000, in a round led by Vocap Ventures, to extend its mobile loyalty solutions business: it offers merchants a system whereby they use a consumer’s mobile phone number instead of a loyalty card to collect shopping information and push out offers to users, charging merchants $99 per month plus five cents for each text message sent out.
In the nine months since it launched, Sundrop Mobile has been targeting the hospitality sector with its services. According to TechCrunch it will use the new funding to extend that to retail, convenience and grocery businesses.
In another round of funding for the m-commerce space, MobiCart, which has operations in San Francisco and Newcastle, UK, has picked up a $500,000 seed round. The company’s main line of business today is a free platform for developers to create m-commerce apps for Apple iPhones, which it launched last year. The company will use the funding to extend the service to other platforms — Android and iPad support are supposed to come online in eight weeks, with more platforms to come soon after. It also plans to add more commercial functionality to the platform, including barcode scanning, coupons and loyalty schemes.
For these smaller investments, it’s interesting to see startups continuing to go local when fundraising. MobiCart says that the lead investor in the seed round was the Finance for Business North East Angel Fund, which is managed by Rivers Capital Partners.