Secures $42 Million in First Round Funding; Working With Industry Leaders, Including: Cisco, Exodus., Focal, Powertel and Triton PCS
LEXINGTON, MA, June 19, 2000 - Top Internet and telecom executives today announced the establishment of Informio, a wireless Web infrastructure services firm. The company is the first to offer voice and audio access from any mobile telephone to business applications on the Internet or corporate Intranets.
The company also announced that it secured $42 million in first-round funding, as well as several key technology and business partnerships and alliances.
"Through our global infrastructure, Informio is dedicated to making it effortless for mobile professionals to access and interact with their critical business applications from anywhere, at any time," explained Alex Laats, Informio co-founder, president and CEO. "We are changing the wireless Web from an awkward curiosity to a user-friendly, mission-critical business requirement that is driven by voice and audio technology."
Informio's technology - the Unified Media Browser - is a highly reliable, scalable and distributed architecture that delivers Internet audio, voice and text applications to any telephone. It is currently in trial with distribution partners such as wireless carriers and enterprise customers.
The Unified Media Browser architecture is composed of best-of-breed technologies, and based on VoiceXML, WML and other standards, which allows any organization to develop Internet text, audio and voice applications. These are then outsourced to Informio for hosting and/or delivery, providing an open, reliable and cost-effective solution for organizations to deliver worthwhile Internet content to their mobile constituents.
A major part of the Informio strategy is to work closely with wireless carriers to provide their customer bases of mobile professionals with worthwhile Internet content. Informio is the first wireless Web infrastructure services firm to be doing so, currently testing the Unified Media Browser with carriers such as Powertel, a GSM provider with 656,000 subscribers, and Triton PCS, the first member of the AT&T Wireless Services Inc. network of affiliates.
"We've been examining the Informio service with 'friendly users' for over a month now," explained Chris Caldwell, New Technology Specialist at Powertel. "The ability to hear any Internet content, whenever and wherever one wants to, is rather compelling. This is one area Powertel is looking to for the future."
Infrastructure and Technology Based on Industry Standards
Informio's open architecture is based on a simple premise: to bridge the gap between the open Internet and the historically proprietary telephone network. The company is deploying its global infrastructure to create the intersection of the high-bandwidth, multi-media Internet and the audio-centric, circuit switched telephone network. In addition to the Unified Media Browser, Informio's open, distributed architecture comprises Cisco routers, T1 interfaces to the Internet, and Focal's telecom network. The application servers, database servers and message stores are hosted by Exodus Communications, Inc., in secure, redundant Internet Data Centers.
Via Informio's Unified Media Browser, wireless device users will be able to access all types of Internet content, including text, voice and audio, from any location worldwide. Lernout & Hauspie and Nuance, leaders in the speech technology market, are providing the text-to-speech and speech recognition technologies for Informio's service.
"There's no question that the wireless Internet space is hot and growing by leaps and bounds," said Kip Sides, product marketing manager in Cisco's IP Access Business Unit. "As the leader in the VoIP market, Cisco is excited about Informio's decision to base its converged network on our high performance, voice-enabled solutions." Informio is taking advantage of the standards interoperability, high voice port density and superior performance of the Cisco 3600 series multiservice access routers to seamlessly connect users to voice recognition and web-(or text) to-voice conversion over a single IP infrastructure.
"We are pleased to be partnering with Informio to help deliver their Unified Media Browser architecture," said John Barnicle, COO of Focal. "We believe that Informio's application takes optimal advantage of Focal's national footprint and highly reliable and advanced network."
Premier Venture Backing and a Subscription-based Model
The company also announced that it has secured $42 million in first-round funding. Co-led by Battery Ventures and Whitney & Co., additional investors include: Chase Capital Partners, Accel Partners, Harris & Harris Group, and MIT.
"The market is overcrowded with free voice portals providing access to Internet messaging, stock quotes and entertainment news," explained Tony Abate, general partner at Battery Ventures. "In contrast, Informio's infrastructure will enable mobile professionals to interact with the most critical business applications through a familiar device - their existing wireless phones."
Informio offers a subscription-based model targeted to the mobile professional who requires instant access to Internet content. With a unique combination of Web, voice and DTMF (touch tone) navigation, Informio allows for the highest quality user experience, and ensures delivery of the most worthwhile and relevant information. A variety of key players -- including telecom carriers, Fortune 1000 enterprise partners, content aggregators with established brands, and independent software vendors -- will join forces with Informio to deliver this content via any wireless device.
According to Cahners-In-Stat Group, there are 500 million wireless phone users in the world today. That number is expected to double by 2002. Per GTE Wireless, between 35 and 40% of wireless phone users are mobile professionals.
Cap Gemini America reports that one-third of the US population currently uses mobile phones for business purposes, eleven percent of whom use them for data applications. Such applications include sending and receiving e-mail, business and personal information. That number is expected to rise dramatically in the next twelve months, driven mostly by business users.
"While there are now general voice portals, akin to the early days of Yahoo and Netscape, we will soon see a proliferation of specific business-targeted vertical portals," added Dave Hartig, Informio's COO and co-founder. "Each of these ventures will require the necessary infrastructure to become viable players. Informio will offer that solution, allowing the voice portal marketplace to reside on our infrastructure."
"The Web took off when there was a user-friendly browser and an open infrastructure to enable content and application providers to join the party - that's the problem we're solving for the wireless Web," Laats concluded. "Our infrastructure is supplying the necessary ingredients for an explosion of a new generation of 'killer business apps' that will be easily accessible via wireless phones -- projected to be in the hands of 1 billion users by 2002."
Management with Proven Track Record
Informio's founding management team represents a unique combination of telecom and Internet industry veterans, including:
- Alex Laats - President, CEO and co-founder. Founded NBX, a manufacturer of Internet-based business communications systems, and sold to 3Com for $90 million. Former MIT tech licensing officer and corporate attorney. Physics and mathematics degrees from MIT, JD from Harvard.
- Dave Hartig - COO and co-founder. Previously GM of Teradyne's Laboratory Business Unit. Held executive-level engineering positions at Hammer Technologies, Xylogics, Data General and Thinking Machines. Electrical engineering degree from MIT, MBA from Boston University.
- Don Picard - CTO and co-founder. Fifth employee and Systems Architect for Boston Technology (now Comverse Network Systems). Architect of carrier-class messaging system residing in 40% of today's top carriers. Computer science degree from Cornell.
- Ray Jimeniz - VP of Product Development and co-founder. Extensive technical development for highly complex systems in financial, communications and point-of-sale industries. Previously co-founder and Director of Application Development at Vorec Corporation. Computer science degree from Columbia University.
- Paul Winterhalder - Applications Architect and co-founder. VP of Product Development and co-founder of Bitheads, Inc. Extensive technical software development experience in highly complex e-commerce and converged communications applications. Computer Science degree from University of New Brunswick.
- Will Clurman - VP of Business Development. Extensive Internet development experience. Started TMM Online, responsible for Times-Mirror's first online magazines. Former product manager at Netscape. E-Commerce Services Group Manager at Lycos. Math and philosophy degrees from St. John's College, MBA from MIT.