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8 hot mobile startups to watch

More users want to use their mobile devices at work, but IT is having trouble controlling the security.

By , Network World
June 27, 2013 04:01 AM ET

Network World - 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.

“Mobile is redefining everything,” says Rajeev Chand, head of research at Rutberg.

With this increased emphasis on mobile startup companies, Chand says the investments are focusing on a handful of key sectors. The two biggest, each receiving more than $2 billion last year, are mobile infrastructure and applications (both consumer and enterprise-focused). While initial waves of mobile startups focused on enabling mobile advertising, new markets have sprung up around mobile payments and application development platforms to support this mobile boom.

To try to capture a taste of this momentum, Network World searched for some of the most interesting early-stage enterprise-mobile startups. We found platforms for building new apps, services that enable workers to use their mobile phones in a corporate setting, and new forms of communication made possible by mobile devices. This list is not meant to be all-encompassing of the mobile startup scene, but rather give a preview of what some of the most interesting companies to watch in this market are up to.

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AppMesh: CRM for the mobile device

AppMesh

There is no shortage of tools to help businesses manage customer relationships. After all, Salesforce.com, Oracle and SAP make billions of dollars doing this.

But two former Salesforce executives say the process of managing customer relations has not yet been optimized for mobile device or end users. “None of them are focused on the individual sales rep,” says co-founder Leo Tenenblat, a co-founder of AppMesh, arguing that the enterprise systems from big-name companies are deployed business-wide by the IT department, and have not focused on the people actually interacting with the customers in the field. Tenenblat may know what he’s talking about: He and co-founder Thomas Tobin each spent more than five years in senior product management roles at Salesforce.com before founding AppMesh.

But the bigger draw is the mobile angle. “Mobile isn’t about taking a web app and putting it on a device with no keyboard. We see it as an opportunity to really rethink the experience where there’s a device with a bunch of sensors that is deeply intertwined with what you use every day, like calendar, e-mail, the phone itself, all those things,” he told Robert Scoble in an interview on YouTube demonstrating AppMesh.  

AppMesh is an Apple iOS application (Android support is coming soon) that allows sales reps to manage their entire customer relationships. Upon installation it can integrate with iOS apps such as contacts and e-mail, becoming a hub for sales reps to manage their work. The company started last year in San Francisco and made its product generally available in April 2013.

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