Dashwire Raises $1.6M from Geoff Entress, Best Buy, to Sync Your Cellphone with the Web

Seattle-based Dashwire, a mobile-Web software startup, has closed a $1.6 million round of financing (out of a $2.3 million offering), according to a regulatory filing. The round was led by Seattle-area investor Geoff Entress, who has previously backed the company and serves on its board, and Best Buy Capital, who has added Ying Zeng to the board. Best Buy looks to bring some important expertise and insight into consumer preferences to what this startup is doing.

Dashwire makes software that runs on your cell phone and automatically uploads content like pictures, videos, contacts, phone records, and text messages to its servers, which you can access through a Web dashboard. The service lets you do things like share photos to Facebook or Flickr, manage your cell phone minutes online, send mobile text messages from your desktop, and migrate content from one phone to the next.

Ford Davidson, Dashwire’s founder and chief executive, says he’s excited by the new funding and the market opportunities it will open up. “We’re growing our business right now,” Davidson says. “We will hire a few more developers. We’ll have some new things released later in the year, and we’re cranking away on it.”

Dashwire currently runs on Windows Mobile and Symbian operating systems—and on handsets ranging from Nokia, Samsung, and LG to Motorola, Sony Ericsson, and HTC. A BlackBerry product is slated to come this fall, followed by a product for the Google Android platform. Davidson succinctly describes his company’s offering, which is actually pretty complex, as a way to “synchronize your mobile content, synthesize your data on a private website, and socialize it with your friends.”

Davidson started the company in 2006 with the goal of integrating mobile phones with personal computers and the Web. Before that, he was a Windows Mobile product manager at Microsoft for three and a half years, and says he was frustrated that Microsoft wasn’t focusing on the consumer market. “People were asking me questions. I sat through meetings with [wireless] operators and device manufacturers complaining to Microsoft about how hard it was to set up their phones. They were saying, ‘Listen guys, we’re seeing device returns larger than we’d expect, and trouble with users getting up and running with their devices.’ These phones have amazing capabilities, and I knew corporate customers were set, but consumers were going to hit problems.”

Indeed, those problems have driven the growth of a whole new mobile sector. In the past year, big companies like Google, Microsoft, Nokia, and Apple have been investing heavily in “connected services,” Davidson says, which is shorthand for software to help make mobile devices more user-friendly with the Web. “Look at those giant software companies investing in services for their particular phone platform. The space has gotten way more exciting for our business. We are cross-platform. I’m even more bullish about the market to support what we’re doing.”

Dashwire currently employs six full-time staff and five contractors, and Davidson says he’s looking to hire three or four more people. In terms of the competition, Microsoft bought the Portuguese software firm MobiComp last year, and has released a mobile Web service called MyPhone that’s in early days. Locally, Dashwire also sees some overlap with Seattle-based Ontela, a mobile photo uploading and sharing service, and Ovi Share, the Nokia-run service based on the former startup Twango’s technology (though the latter is closing its Kirkland office).

But the crowded space doesn’t seem to faze Dashwire. “We’ve learned quite a bit from usage,” says Davidson, a Bellevue native and Harvard University alum (who says he’s going to a Red Sox-Mariners game this weekend). “We hope to keep being nimble and stay ahead of the pack.”

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