Dropbox gets BYOD smarts with MobileSpan buy

Dropbox has acquired MobileSpan, a startup that helps people share content securely outside of corporate firewalls. The acquisition will end the MobileSpan service, but helps Dropbox continue its push to become more enterprise friendly and continue to move beyond simple file sharing and storage. A purchase price was not disclosed.

MobileSpan (see disclosure) was founded in 2011 by two ex-Google engineers who worked on the Chrome browser and an EIR from Foundation Capital. The idea was to build a tool that secured the connections between an employee’s device and the corporate servers so people didn’t have to use company-approved devices. As the smartphone (and Apple) revolution progressed, and more people wanted to bring their own phones and tablets into the workplace, IT concerns about locking down devices met a lot of employee resistance.

MobileSpan capitalized on this concern with its product, which ran both on the corporate servers and on the employee’s phone or laptop. Having software on both ends allowed for a secure connection and control over what files were shared and with whom. Ironically it may have prevented some rogue employees using Dropbox against their IT department’s wishes from dropping files into Dropbox.

But now its employees can help Dropbox build out more enterprise-friendly software for corporate clients. As MobileSpan employees wrote on a company blog post announcing the deal, “… we still have some ways to go before business content is freed from its desktop-focused roots and is made readily usable yet secure on modern mobile devices. Joining forces with Dropbox will allow us to rapidly accelerate the realization of that dream.”

Pursuing that dream does mean the MobileSpan product will stop working as of the end of this year with the promise that the team will help anyone who wants to transfer their service to Dropbox for Business. So Dropbox may have purchase a few more clients along with the MobileSpan engineers. Time will tell.

MobileSpan company raised $2.3 million in January 2013 led by True Ventures with Greylock Partners, K9 Ventures, Alchemist Accelerator participating.

Disclosure: MobileSpan is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media.