Beringea Backs Mophie to Help Make Smartphones Smarter in an Exploding Market

In about four years, Mophie has evolved from a startup operated out of a founder’s garage in Kalamazoo, MI, to a fast-growing provider of electronic accessories for smartphones and other mobile devices with operations in Paw Paw, MI, and Santa Ana, CA. That’s according to Jeff Bocan, a managing director for the Farmington Hills, MI-based private equity and venture firm Beringea, which has become Mophie’s first institutional investor.

Beringea, Michigan’s largest venture firm, announced yesterday that it has made an investment in Santa Ana-based Mophie through the InvestMichigan Growth Capital Program to advance the company’s marketing and product development. (InvestMichigan, a $185 million fund managed by Beringea and a unit within Credit Suisse Group, was launched in 2008 to seek investment opportunities in Michigan). Bocan, who says he is becoming a board member at Mophie as part of the investment deal, filled us in on the story of the young company and its growth since its founding in 2006. He declined to reveal the exact amount invested in the company, but noted that it’s within his firm’s typical range of $2 million to $7 million.

Mophie started out in the home garage of company co-founder Shawn Dougherty in Kalamazoo, Bocan said. She and the company’s co-founder and CEO, Daniel Huang, have quickly turned the company into a major supplier of portable cases for recharging mobile devices such as the iPod and iPhone as well as other electronic accessories. The firm has since outgrown its space in Dougherty’s garage and moved its distribution center to Paw Paw, while its design and marketing operations are now located at its headquarters in Santa Ana. (Still, 30 of its roughly 45 workers are in Michigan.) Its sales have already exceeded $20 million in 2010, continuing a trend of huge increases in annual revenue at the company, he said.

“What we are investing in is really a company that makes smartphones smarter, and more useful,” Bocan said.

To make his point, Bocan noted Mophie’s “credit card swiper” that fits onto the bottom of iPhones and enables people to process credit card payments from almost anywhere. A plumber could carry it with him to process credit card payments at a customer’s house, he said. The accessory includes software that turns the iPhone’s touch screen into a signature pad so customers can sign their names after they swipe their credit cards, to complete their transaction.

Mophie, which manufactures its products in Asia, developed its smartphone accessory for processing credit card payments in partnership with the Mountain View, CA-based financial software company Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU). And Mophie also has worked with Qualcomm, the San Diego-based wireless technology giant, to develop a sleek case that provides additional battery life to the iPhone while people are watching shows with Qualcomm’s FLO TV service. Mophie is also working on new accessories for Droid and BlackBerry smartphones, according to Bocan.

“The mobile computing trend is one of the fastest growing segments of the consumer electronics industry—and it’s just enormous,” Bocan said. “So we’re really excited.”

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