Funding On the Road To OZ

If the popularity of cell phone text messaging is an indicator, then mobile IM and email will one day be just as popular. In just the U.S. 70 million people, or 36.9% of the cell phone users, sent at least one text message in June, while 12.6 million (6.7%) people used mobile IM and 16.5 million (8.7%) used mobile email, according to M:Metrics. That leaves an opening for startups to both build the infrastructure around mobile IM and email and also the services that ride on top.

One of those is Montreal-based OZ Communications, which has been surprisingly successful in winning over carrier and handset manufacturer customers with its mobile IM and email phone client and network server. While the company raised a $27.3 million from VantagePoint Venture Partners in 2004, OZ CEO Skuli Mogensen said in a chat yesterday that the company is in the process of closing an equally sizable round, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

The company works with carriers like Cingular, Sprint, T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile USA, handset companies like Motorola, Nokia, and Samsung and popular mobile IM companies like AOL, Microsoft’s MSN, and Yahoo.

The company has a storied history, and weirdly began as a 3D graphics company in Iceland in 1991, where OZ CEO Skuli Mogensen was studying at a university. The company says it managed to license its 3D technology to Microsoft, and later moved into Internet and telecom real-time messaging before the telecom bust of 2001. Then when times were tough Mogensen says he and ten executives did a buyout and recapitalization and in 2004 found its VantagePoint funding.

Maybe the most unusual thing about their history isn’t that they changed industries several times, but kept the same name throughout. Mogensen says that’s just because the name is just so darn good they had to keep it going. OK, if you say so. The new funding will be used for international expansion in Europe and Asia.


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