Skyfire Labs, a mobile video optimization company, has raised $8 million in Series C financing, and even though Verizon Investments participated in the round, the company views that as a plus, not a minus, when it comes to getting business with other Tier 1 carriers in North America.
Verizon Investments is a subsidiary of Verizon Communications. The investment arm seeks promising entrepreneurial companies that complement Verizon network and service platforms. Other investors in this round include Matrix Partners, Trinity Ventures and Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Skyfire isn't disclosing its carrier customer list, but CEO Jeff Glueck says having the backing of a company like Verizon is a big positive.
"It's just a great endorsement," he says. Given Verizon is well respected for its network engineering and planning, "I think it's a nice calling card as we talk to other operators around the world."
When Skyfire started a couple of years ago, skeptics pointed out that carrier-grade services, including video and image optimization, are proprietary in nature, and trying to do a cloud-based, open standards scenario wouldn't work. But operator thinking is changing, and service providers are indeed thinking heavily about the cloud and open hardware standards. "It's a new world," he says.
Glueck says Skyfire's Rocket Optimizer product is delivering an average of 60 percent savings for operators on video bandwidth; its technology is surgically applied to points of congestion in the network in real time. For end users, Skyfire offers apps designed to help them get more video bang for their buck; by using the app, end users can watch more video on the same tiered data plan because it's optimized.
Skyfire will use its latest round of funds to meet the demands of its wireless operator customers, as well as to expand into European and Asian markets. The company hired John Rintoul as vice president of sales for its newly opened EMEA office in London. He previously led sales with the Vodafone account for Cisco's Mobile Internet Technology Group and prior to that was at Starent Networks, Juniper Networks and Kagoor Networks. Also newly hired is Kansas City-based Scott Boehmer, who's vice president of sales for Americas. He comes from Seven Networks, where he was vice president of sales; before that, he was a product executive at Sprint.
In North America, Skyfire, which competes with the likes of Flash Networks and ByteMobile, hit break-even last year, which is a significant achievement given it's a relatively new start-up. The company launched Skyfire 2.0 for Android in April 2010 and Skyfire Rocket for carriers and OEMs in May 2010.