There is a surge of startups trying to address the management of smartphones in enterprise networks, which is surely going to be a massive issue. If you think about how the number of smart, networked mobile devices are proliferating, and how employees use them for both work and private purposes, you can imagine this is a big management headache. That’s the opportunity that Silicon Valley startup MobileIron is going after.
I spoke to MobileIron back to CTIA and have since done some more research on the company. The company last August raised $11 million in Series B funding from top investors including Norwest Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, and Storm Ventures. The company is led by CEO Bob Tinker, who was a former business development manager for Cisco’s wireless business units. He was also formerly vice president of business development at Airespace, which was acquired by Cisco in 2005.
The company markets a Virtual Smartphone Platform that allows IT managers to monitor, secure, and manage data and network usage on enterprise smartphones. It works across the BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone, Symbian, and Palm’s Web OS smartphone operating systems. The company says that Android support is coming soon. Among the features included in the product are the ability to watch for data and usage spikes, monitoring International roaming to cut down on excessive bills, service-quality monitoring, and device security management.
The company has an interesting edge in that it provides a management application for iPhones, which are obviously surging on corporate networks but aren’t generally thought of as an “enterprise” phone, but more of a consumer device. MobileIron provides an iPhone management application for companies that want to deploy them to the workforce.
I spoke to Chris Field, who is an IT manager at NetGear that uses the MobileIron product to manage employee smartphones. He says that product has helped the company manage the mobile workforce, including cutting down on phone bills by using the features such as the International roaming monitor.
“It saves us a couple of thousands of dollars a month on International calling plans,” said Field. “It can check for International calling patterns and tell us when somebody is getting excessive charges and should be switched to an unlimited plan.”
One example Field gives is if an employee has a new assignment to go to China, for example, and starts using their phone overseas without checking the roaming rates, which can literally add up to hundreds of dollars a day. The MobileIron system would alert the IT staff to the situation so that they can switch the employee to a more affordable plan.
Another feature that Field likes is the ability to monitor service quality so that when employees have repeated problems with signal strength, they can take data to their carriers. “We had one executive who had poor signal strength and the carrier told us that they had upgraded coverage in the area,” said Field. “We had proof that they didn’t.”
There is no doubt that MobileIron has a nice growth story, given the expected of smartphones on corporate networks. Research firm iSuppli epxects that as many as 400 million smartphones will shipped in 2012. Approximately 170 million were shipped in 2009, according to the Gartner Group.
Clearly the MobileIron sales story will be focused on return on investment (ROI) and cost of ownership. If the company can convince enterprise clients that it saves them money, for example, on roaming charges and device management, than it will have a powerful sales story. The company is promoting this angle with a useful “Management Cost Savings Calculator” on their Website.
Other companies focused on the enterprise device management space include Sparus Software, Sybase, Trust Digital, and Zenprise.
- Founded: 2007
- CEO: Bob Tinker, former Cisco and Airespace executive
- Investors: Norwest, Sequoia, Storm
- Total funding: Approximately $20 million including first and second rounds.
- Market: Enterprise mobile device management
- Employees: 50
- Customers: 24
- Product model: Per-seat license starting at $80 per user