Vaultus Raises $6 Million to Bolster Sales of its Mobile Middleware

Boston-based Vaultus, which makes “mobile middleware” allowing road warriors and other workers to use their smart phones to access key enterprise systems such as customer relationship management, business intelligence, and help-desk software, announced today that it has raised $6 million in new venture funding to expand its sales and marketing operation.

Point Judith Capital of Providence, RI, led the expansion round, which also included existing investors Susquehanna International Group and IDG Ventures. That brings total investment in Vaultus to $70 million, according to CEO David Birnbach.

Vaultus’s technology helps in three areas. It provides “connector” software that takes data from corporate servers running programs such as Siebel or Salesforce CRM software, Cognos or Business Objects business-intelligence software, or BMC-Remedy help-desk software and prepares it for mobile distribution. Second, it actually pushes this data out to mobile devices, compressing it enormously to compensate for the limited bandwidth of wireless connections and the limited storage capacity of many mobile devices. Third, it gives corporate IT managers the ability to customize the look, feel, and function of the applications on these devices (including all Windows Mobile devices, Research In Motion’s Blackberry devices, Nokia cell phones running the Symbian operating system, and soon, the Apple iPhone).

One key feature that has given Vaultus’s technology a foothold among big businesses, especially in the financial and health-care sectors, is its built-in security, which is based on a system of short-lived “lease keys” that block access to all corporate data on a mobile device if the device fails to check in wirelessly with corporate servers on a set schedule. “Last year 84,000 mobile devices were left in New York City cabs and one-third of them were sold on eBay,” says Birnbach. “If I lose my device, I can call my help desk and they can issue a ‘kill’ instruction that will shut it down—but the first thing that a thief is going to do is turn the signal off. We handle that condition. Our servers ping every device on the network every so often, and if they haven’t reached a particular device after x number of hours, as dictated by corporate compliance officers, software inside the device makes the data on that device inaccessible until a new key is procured.”

Vaultus has signed up about six dozen big customers, including Merrill Lynch, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Genzyme, Avon, and the U.S. Army. But why, at this late date—almost eight years after its founding by a group of MIT undergraduates and graduate students—does the company need more money to beef up sales? There are two interrelated reasons, according to Birnbach.

The first is that it’s taken longer than expected for the market for mobile business applications to mature. “What everybody thought was the big wave of wireless back in 2000 was really about seven years ahead of its time,” says Birnbach. “But with all the customer wins we have had in the last year or two, the mobile software realm is now getting to be big for the first time. It’s been demonstrated that the large enterprises are paying attention and investing real money in these initiatives.”

The other reason is that the company was busy behind the scenes making sure its software would work across a range of business applications, wireless networks, and mobile devices. “We did all the heavy lifting when no one was paying attention to the sector,” says Birnbach. “So to date we’ve been very technology and engineering heavy, with very few sales folks, because we thought it was very important to build technological superiority on the platform side.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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