January 19, 2011, 12:54 PM

M-commerce technology provider Kony Solutions secures $19.1 million in financing

It will use the funds to further develop its app platform and push into retail.

Lead Photo

Kony Solutions develops mobile apps, like this one for Toyota, that can run on all smartphone and tablet operating systems, the company says.

Mobile commerce technology provider Kony Solutions Inc. has secured $19.1 million in Series A financing from Insight Venture Partners, a global technology and Internet investment firm. An initial $13.4 million will enable Kony Solutions to expand its research and development related to the Kony Mobile Application Platform, the company says. In addition, the funding will be used to accelerate the global rollout of Kony’s sales and marketing efforts, which includes a push into retail. Kony declines to reveal when it will receive the remaining funds.

“In mobile commerce today, it’s a land grab. Whoever stays ahead and has the bandwidth and resources to answer the demand will succeed,” says Sophie Vu, director of business development at Kony Solutions.

The funding comes at a time when Kony has been altering the company’s focus from research and development to sales and marketing.

“We were founded in 2007 and the first two years we had 100 developers working day and night to figure out how to embrace these different operating systems and get them into one application programming interface,” Vu says. “Now we house every single native feature that all these operating systems have. We maximize on every different feature so the client can optimize and choose which features to turn on and off. It’s a comprehensive library of all these unique native features as well as the common features.”

The Kony Mobile Application Platform is billed as “Write Once, Run Everywhere,” meaning a business can create apps for multiple mobile operating systems through one development process that leverages a massive database of mobile device specifications. A retailer, for example, would check off which features and functions it wishes to use in each of the operating systems—some are common, some are very different. The retailer also designs the app using the platform builder.

Then the Kony technology crafts the various apps needed to run on the different smartphones and tablets. Either Kony or the retailer submits the apps to the relevant app stores. And as operating systems and devices change, Kony issues updates to clients’ apps that are then submitted to app stores so customers have the latest versions. If a customer has already downloaded the app, he is notified through a message via the app store that an update is available.

Kony says its roster of clients includes more than 35 Fortune 500 brands, including the likes of United Airlines and Toyota Motor Sales U.S.A. It emphasizes that today it’s making a big push into retail.

“Retail is a big focus for us,” Vu says. “But there needs to be more education in the retail space because many retailers think if you have a mobile web site then you are done. They are still thinking about the least common denominator. But you find some retailers, especially the big ones, that are supporting the mobile market from different app perspectives, especially the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry. So we are making a big push and educating on our future-proofing value proposition compared with incumbent mobile commerce companies.”

Kony’s so-called “future-proofing” involves its research and development team keeping the company’s vast database of mobile phone and tablet specifications up to date, which is a tricky feat given the rapid pace of evolution in the mobile technology market.

“There were 80 new tablets introduced at the recent Consumer Electronics Show. And there are a lot of new mobile features and innovations coming out, like augmented reality and location-based services,” Vu says. “We support everything so the customer doesn’t worry if their app works on whatever new smartphone or tablet that comes out. Which is why we’re focusing our new funds on engineering support to stay ahead of the game.”

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