Here’s some big funding news coming out of the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona today. AirWatch, a privately held nine-year old company that specializes in helping large companies manage and secure the mobile devices their employees use, has just landed a huge $200 million venture capital investment from Insight Venture Partners.
If there’s one thing there’s a lot of demand for right now, its in the area of mobile management. In English it means basically making sure that all those iPhones, iPads, Android devices and Blackberrys either issued to employees or brought to the office by employees are secured, are running the right applications, have access to the right resources, and when an employee leaves or when a device is lost, get cut off quickly.
Its a pretty big market. Research firm Gartner estimated last year that about two-thirds of large companies and organizations will buy a mobile device management product within the next four or five years. And within four years, Gartner says, most companies will be supporting at least two mobile platforms.
I had a quick chat this morning with AirWatch CEO John Marshall who called from Barcelona. The first thing I wondered about was the size of the deal. AirWatch is already pretty well established with 6,000 customers and 1,200 employees. It boasts customers as varied as Lowe’s the home improvement retail chain, airlines like United and Delta, the US Army Corps of Engineers, automaker Toyota, pharmaceutical giant Merck, and Swiss bank ING. In the nine years it has been operating, the company has been internally funded.
The produce is a mixed software-as-a-service or on-premise product. About 70 percent of AirWatch’s customers choose the cloud-based product, the remainder use it on-premise, he says.
“We feel like this is a great opportunity to push harder and continue to differentiate our company from the rest of the marketplace,” Marshall told me.
One competitor AirWatch sees is software giant SAP, and computing giant IBM are starting to make noise about this. And there will almost certainly be more companies talking about this. “The interesting thing here is that every single company has mobile devices, every single student will have a tablet, every single government agency has or will have mobile devices. The opportunity is so massive that it will boil down to the companies that have the scale and size to be able to manage across the entire spectrum of devices.”
He says AirWatch is about two to three times the size of other players in the business in terms of the number of people devoted just to mobile device management. “We’re pretty much the biggest one.”
So what’s he going to do with all that money? In a word: Grow. “The interesting story here, is that we’ve been building the business in a consistent and accelerated way for the last two years. We’ve have 40 percent quarter-over-quarter growth for the last eight quarters.” Marshall also wants to expand operations through Asia and the Pacific region. There’s also a possibility of some strategic acquisitions.
Also down the road, maybe: An initial public offering. “We don’t feel the pressure to do that right now,” Marshall told me. “But we certainly view that as a viable option in the future.”
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