Dashwire CEO Ford Davidson Talks Financing, Apple Vs. Android, and the Future of Smartphone Syncing in a “Market That’s on Fire”

Ford Davidson has more smart phones than he can hold in two hands. It’s all part of the business, he says, a necessary product of keeping tabs on different mobile platforms—and competitors—and staying abreast of new trends. And though finding pocket space for all of his devices may be challenging at times, the 31-year-old founder and chief executive of Seattle-based Dashwire is no less than enthralled by the mobile scene.

The mobile software startup is a product of Davidson’s experience in the wireless industry. After getting his start at another local mobile startup, Monet Mobile Networks, Davidson spent three and a half years as a project manager in Microsoft’s mobile devices group, where he worked on the launch of Windows Mobile 5.0. Then he got an idea for a brand new company, and in 2006 founded Dashwire. Now, four years later, Davidson says the company is going strong.

Dashwire, which develops software and applications that automatically synchronize data from cell phones to the Web, first popped up on our radar in May 2009, when the company scored a $1.6 million investment, led by Seattle-area angel investor Geoff Entress and Best Buy Capital. And, catching the attention of another new investor, Bellevue-based Trilogy Equity Partners, the company raised an additional $1.1 million in September.

The platform appeals to the consumer market because it allows smartphone users to automatically sync pictures, videos, contacts, text messages, and phone records to a Web-based dashboard, where they can manage their cell phone minutes, transfer content from one phone to another, or send mobile text messages right from their desktop. The service also has social capabilities—through the app, you can even share photos via outside networks like Facebook and Flickr. But perhaps the most appealing aspect is that Dashwire is free for consumers, giving it a leg up on the competition, such as Apple’s MobileMe service, which offers automatic synchronization between the iPhone, iPad, and Mac and PC computers, for $99 a year.

While much has happened in the last year for the startup, Davidson says the ride hasn’t slowed down yet. In May, Dashwire was one of three local startups to make it onto FierceWireless’s Fierce 15 list, which recognizes innovation and intelligence in emerging wireless companies. And at the end of July the startup brought in another, albeit smaller, round—$515,568 in options, securities, and debt, from an undisclosed investor, according to a regulatory filing.

Ford Davidson

Ford Davidson

And while debt and options may not sound the same as equity, according to Davidson, the financing is another key step the company has taken over the last year in preparation for further expansion—including the roll-out of new products and capabilities—this fall.

“We have a number of projects that we’re going to be shipping this fall,” he says. “We raised a small amount of money just to insure that we hit those milestones and have enough cash to ship those products, so that we can do a larger funding round later in the year.”

Dashwire hasn’t broken the profitability barrier just yet, but Davidson predicts that’s all about to change. When we last reported on the company in May 2009, Dashwire had six full-time employees, and five contract workers. Today that total has grown to 20. The company has also revamped its business plan to tackle the inevitable question that all startups, especially those in online apps, face—how to make money. After much thought, Davidson says, the company made the choice to halt free downloads from Dashwire.com, and switch to a licensee service model.

“The way that our company has evolved is that we started out as a direct-to-consumer business,” Davidson says. The company first unveiled its services in 2007, and made them available for Windows Mobile users in early 2008. “That was before app stores were available,” he adds. And after receiving “great responses from customers,” Davidson says companies began to approach Dashwire.

“As we got some coverage, all these companies in the industry came to talk to us about how we could help them,” he says. Seeing an opportunity to cash in on a product without charging consumers, Dashwire opted to make the shift to a licensee program in 2009.

And the plan, he says, is paying off. Dashwire has already inked a licensing deal with … Next Page »

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