Bump, With a Fresh $16 Million, Explores New Ways to Connect Mobile-Device Users—Q&A with David Lieb and Jake Mintz

As we reported Monday night, Mountain View, CA-based Bump Technologies got a big bump itself this week, in the form of a $16 million Series B funding round led by new investor Andreessen Horowitz. Bump is famous for building iOS and Android apps that let mobile-device users share files by literally bumping their devices against one another. (Accelerometers in the devices detect the motion, Bump’s servers match up devices that bump in the same time and place, and the actual file transfers occur via wireless data networks and the Internet.) In a blog post, Bump said it plans to use the money to hire more engineers and product managers and improve its mobile apps to allow more kinds of in-person interactions.

I’ve been following Bump closely since interviewing co-founder and CEO David Lieb last September as part of a project to profile Y Combinator-backed startups in the Bay Area. Yesterday I reached Lieb and co-founder Jake Mintz and asked them to fill me in about the funding—which represents a big jump over the startup’s $3 million first round in late 2009—and about their plans to explore new markets for the company’s brand of proximity-based mobile networking technology.

Much of the conversation was about ways the company might build on the “bumping” experience—for example, by allowing mobile device owners to bump with merchants or music fans to bump with bands at a merchandising table. We also talked about the burgeoning technology of near-field communications, or NFC, and how it might compete—or connect—with Bump’s technology. (Lieb and Mintz were notably skeptical about NFC’s potential in areas like mobile payments.) Overall, it was clear that Bump has a long roadmap of applications it wants to explore, but that Lieb and Mintz are keeping the startup on a conservative path, sticking to just two mobile platforms, iOS and Android, and trying not to get sidetracked by all the exciting yet ultimately distracting applications to which they could put their technology.

Here’s an edited version of our talk.

Xconomy: How did this funding round come about?

David Lieb: We have had a lot of inbound interest, honestly since like a month after we closed our Series A in October 2009. We didn’t really need to raise a round then, obviously, but we kept in touch with some people we think are visionary in the space. In the fall we started to think that this opportunity is really big, and we started to think about what we wanted to do to really attack it. Around that time we meet with Marc and Ben over at Andreessen Horowitz again, and gave them an update, and at that point they were pretty excited about what we were doing. Of all the people we talked to, they really saw the vision of what we wanted to do. We didn’t go out and do a full-scale fundraising cycle. We met with them and decided they were the idea partners for us at this stage.

X: What makes Andreessen Horowitz so ideal?

DL: I was at a lunch meeting with Greg McAdoo from Sequoia Capital and Marc, and Greg asked Marc, ‘I’d like to hear what your investment thesis is on Bump.’ And the answer he gave was really interesting. He said that when he looked at the Web and mobile, there are a certain number of … Next Page »

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

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