The market for mobile developer services — or tools to make the lives of app developers easier — is going to be a lucrative one, and the top providers of these tools stand to gain a lot as the use of mobile apps explodes. Urban Airship, a push notification and mobile development service provider, is enjoying a huge lift from the growth in mobile and has now pulled in $15.1 million in a Series C Round led by Salesforce.com (s crm) and Verizon (s vz).
The latest round, which included participation from existing investors True Ventures (see disclosure below) and Foundry Group, brings Urban Airship’s total funding to $21.6 million to date. The Portland, Ore. company is looking to build out its business team, scale-up its infrastructure internationally, expand in Asia and Europe next year and add more features to its platform.
Urban Airship first got attention as a push notification provider, allowing developers and publishers to easily add messaging to their apps and devices. It also offers in-app purchasing, data tracking and subscriptions and recently bulked up its location services through the acquisition of SimpleGeo.
Urban Airship has become a favored tool of developers and publishers and has sent a total of 7 billion push notifications, with a rate of 1 billion a month now since launching in June of 2009. The company has more than 20,000 customers including most of the top media brands and is on 300 million devices.
With the acquisition of SimpleGeo, Urban Airship has become a more complete back-end service provider, one focused on delivering smarter, more context-aware tools necessary to keep mobile users engaged. That’s the name of the game and developers and publishers are increasingly looking to providers who can be more of a complete resource for them.
“Our customers are trying to navigate mobile and they want us to deliver not just tools and building blocks, but a full back-end solution they can integrate with their content and their marketing teams can get in front of,” said CEO Scott Kveton.
Kveton said Urban Airship is talking to manufacturers about building its service directly into more devices such as TVs and set-top boxes. He said with the Salesforce.com investment, Urban Airship is building a Heroku plug-in and looking for more opportunities to work with Salesforce, which he said is complementary for his company.
Salesforce in 2005 launched AppExchange, a marketplace for cloud computing apps. I asked Kveton if Salesforce might be a potential acquirer of Urban Airship and he said the company values its independence now, but we’ll have to see what happens. Verizon last year selected Urban Airship as its preferred provider of push notifications for mobile apps on its network. There could more synergies between Urban Airship and Verizon going forward as well as the carrier looks to get closer to developers.
Urban Airship is poised to take a share of a mobile app development services market that is forecast to grow to $100 billion by 2015 along with the exploding mobile app market. As Urban Airship showed with its purchase of SimpleGeo, there’s plenty of consolidation to come as many of these development tools get bundled together into one offering. We’ll see if Urban Airship manages to stay independent but it’s off to a strong start so far.
Disclosure: Urban Airship is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, the founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.