Netscape founder Marc Andreessen is betting on smart mobile services with his venture capital firm's latest investment. Andreessen Horowitz, along with SV Angel and an investor group led by Jim Davidson, invested $15.5 million in Series B funding into ItsOn.
Founded by wireless and networking industry pioneers Greg Raleigh and Charles Giancarlo, ItsOn is introducing a new way to deliver, purchase and consume mobile services. Specifically, the Redwood City, Calif.-based startup is building direct-to-consumer services and cloud-based solutions to serve both mobile service and content providers.
ItsOn is garnering interest in the smartphone age, where explosive data growth is predicted for at least the next decade. With service plans and the underlying network technology still rooted in the voice-only era, ItsOn sees an opportunity to revolutionize the $1 trillion global mobile services market.
"As the feature phone goes by the wayside, a new level of personal connectivity is becoming central to our identity in the form of the smartphone. But mobile service plans are not keeping up," said Andreessen, co-founder and partner at Andreessen Horowitz.
"ItsOn addresses a universal problem that has never been solved. It is the ultimate usage-based model of the future. The company's cloud-based technology is the leap forward needed to unlock the next wave of growth and financial opportunity in mobile. We believe ItsOn is about to change this industry."
ItsOn's secret sauce, so to speak, is flexibility and real-time service customization features for both mobile operators and service providers. The idea is to enable businesses to provide services targeted to specific user demographics and device types with minimal development time or market risk.
Examples on the business-to-consumer side include a snack food maker's sponsorship of streaming for a sporting event, free social networking with voice services, sponsored news services, and sponsored online shopping with mobile service credits for loyalty shoppers.
Raleigh, chairman and CEO of ItsOn, said the company empowers consumers to choose exactly which mobile services they need and how much they want to spend -- eliminating overcharging and bill shock.
"Consumers can select, monitor, control and share all of their mobile services as they wish, instantly from their phone, tablet or PC without the inconvenience of talking to a sales associate, calling a support center or logging into a Web site," Raleigh said. "People will be able to take any ItsOn enabled device out of the box and simply start using whatever services they desire."
ItsOn is not just talking big. Raleigh invented and commercialized 4G "MIMO" wireless technology and the newest Wi-Fi technology. He also led the creation and launch of the Qualcomm Gobi global mobile Internet product line, and founded Clarity Wireless (acquired by Cisco Systems) and Airgo Networks (acquired by Qualcomm). Giancarlo has founded several influential networking technology companies, led Cisco's overall product development and management activities for a decade, and has served on the boards of Skype, Accenture and Netflix.
"Just as the Internet revolution resulted in the migration of intelligence from the network core to the edge of wired networks, ItsOn is now enabling the massive, untapped intelligence in smart mobile devices to offer more choice and control for consumers of their mobile services," Giancarlo said. "The ItsOn platform decreases network cost, increases network flexibility and puts power into the hands of the consumer."