Blaast, a Finnish mobile startup that’s still in stealth mode, has raised a substantial seed round from a gaggle of European investors, according to sources.
Ambient Sound — an investment group started by four of the engineers who built Skype — is believed to have led the funding, which could be as high as €2.6 million ($3.6 million USD).
Helsinki-based Blaast is remaining quiet and won’t share details of its technology with the public or the press, but there are a few clues about what it’s up to on its website: most obviously, the tagline that suggests it wants to provide “the world’s first cloud-based mobile platform”.
That’s an audacious claim, not least because it surely has to square up against similar descriptions of Android (which is heavily reliant on Google’s cloud-based services) and Palm/HP’s WebOS (which has major cloud components). But from what I’ve been told, Blaast’s system is not just for high-end handsets. Its major selling point may be that it allows dumb phones to become a lot smarter by pushing out some of the more complex functions into the cloud.
Ambient Sound, which is based in Estonia, confirmed that it now has a seat on the board, but further research suggests that it isn’t the only investor backing the company. Moaffak Ahmed of Finnish seed firm Veturi is listed as an adviser on LinkedIn, while Sunstone Capital’s Pekka Vartiainen, a former senior VP at Nokia, has confirmed that he is involved as an individual angel investor.
With details so scarce it’s difficult to know what to expect, and until we see exactly what the company means by “cloud-based”, judging whether the company is a big deal is tough. There are a few pointers that suggest it’s worth watching, though.
For a start, the company’s about page lists two founders who both have good track records in the field: Joonas Hjelt, who was the founder of cloud infrastructure company Nervogrid and an executive at Nokia, and Vesa Kemppainen, former COO at telecoms services firm Tecnotree.
And it’s increasingly clear that the number of mobile services that make use of the cloud is going to grow very quickly over the next few years The Wall Street Journal recently quoted ABI Research analyst Mark Beccue suggesting that the number of mobile phone users who access apps through the cloud will rocket from 42.8 million in 2008 to nearly 1 billion by 2014.
I understand Blaast — which formed last summer — is aggressively hiring to expand its current team of 20, and is already testing its software while in negotiation with handset manufacturers and wireless operators to get Blaast onto handsets.
Could be one to watch, especially as we see a wave of mobile startups spring out of Finland in the wake of the Nokia-Microsoft compact.
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