Longworth and OVP Put $4M Into Symform, Raise Stakes in Cloud Data Storage

Some interesting bicoastal news in cloud computing today. Seattle startup Symform, a maker of cloud storage and data protection technology, has raised $4 million in its second round of funding, led by Boston-area VC firm Longworth Venture Partners. Original investor OVP Venture Partners, based in Kirkland, WA, also participated in the round. As part of the deal, Longworth partner Nilanjana Bhowmik is joining Symform’s board of directors, which includes OVP managing directors Mark Ashida and Lucinda Stewart.

Normally, we might not get that excited by a relatively small financing round like this. But it’s a decent amount for a software startup, it’s a fast-growing sector, and besides, I first wrote about this company back when it was two guys, with no funding, in a small room overlooking Lake Union in Seattle.

The two guys were founders Praerit Garg and Bassam Tabbara, a couple of ex-Microsoft veterans, and they had the audacity to go build a new data storage, backup, and disaster recovery system for small businesses—all based in the Internet cloud, and cheaper and faster than other available online services. The key to the technology is that the data doesn’t sit in one company’s data center; it is distributed among a thousand different nodes in the network. This is what Garg, Symform’s president, calls “true cloud computing.”

Of course, online data backup and recovery is a hugely competitive field, with players like Mozy (owned by EMC), Carbonite, Symantec, LaCie, Zenith Infotech, and others vying for a piece of the multibillion-dollar pie. Symform’s differentiators are its focus on small businesses instead of consumers or big companies, its military-grade data security, and its distribution strategy of working with small-business IT consultants who sell Symform’s product, along with other managed services, to corporate customers for a monthly subscription.

In April 2009, Symform raised its first round of venture funding, $1.5 million from OVP. Back then, the company had about 35 distribution partners. Now it’s up to almost 1,000 partners and 12 employees, says Kevin Brown, Symform’s vice president of sales and marketing. Brown, a veteran of seven startups including Visio, Qpass, and Tableau Software, understands the company’s distribution partners, because he used to be one of them himself—in the Boston area, where he launched his IT career. “There’s a lot of pent-up energy around the area of data protection,” he says.

Meanwhile, Longworth has been around since 1999, and just raised its third venture fund last year. The firm is known for its investments in companies such as Marathon Technologies, Constant Contact, and Thinking Screen Media. Symform is the VC firm’s first investment in the … Next Page »

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