Earlier this month, San Diego-based Tapioca Mobile (www.tapiocamobile.com) raised a first round of funding from Venrock, saying that it is developing to deliver video and rich media to mobile handsets. To get a better perspective on where Tapioca Mobile fits into the mobile market, and for more color on the funding, we spoke with Sachin Deshpande, CEO and Co-founder of Tapioca last week. Ben Kuo conducted the interview.
What's the story behind Tapioca mobile?
Sachin Deshpande: Tapioca is really focused on a growing trend which has been happening over the last few years, which is the incredible rise in the use of messaging paradigms by mobile users. There has been an incredible rise of both SMS and MMS. As you probably know, MMS is just like SMS, except you have an attachment. In the press it's generally known as picture messaging. The best analogy is that email is to SMS as email with an attachment is to MMS. So, there's been an incredible rise in both SMS and MMS, people taking pictures with cameras, taking videos, and sending it. We're trying to help companies--publishers, advertisers, and carriers--to really ride that wave, and help people deliver multimedia to consumers using these messaging paradigms. This past June, Verizon announced that there were 10 billion SMS messages sent through their system, and 10 million of those were MMS. Other carriers have been seeing similar trends. It's just been an incredible rise in instant messaging. As our venture partner, David Siminoff likes to say, it rivals the growth of the Internet 10 years ago. Given that context, we're trying to help publishers, advertisers, and carriers deliver multimedia to mobile users using messaging infrastructure. The device market is very fragmented in how it deals with multimedia. One handset can vary from another handset in terms of a variety of multimedia characteristics, including video and audio codecs, screen resolution, and on and on with other technical characteristics. Unlike the Internet, where everyone has a Flash player and a browser, that does not exist in the handset market. What we've done, is built a platform to address this fragmentation and help publishers and advertisers ride this wave.
What's your background--I see you were working on BREW at Qualcomm--why did you decide to start up Tapioca?
Sachin Deshpande: I was at Qualcomm for quite a few years. I was actually heading up the developer relations group within Qualcomm, where we led relationships with developer and content providers. I had a wonderful time at Qualcomm, which is a fantastic company. I just really saw an incredible rise in the usage of messaging paradigms, and wanted to take advantage of the entrepreneurial opportunity to really help publishers, advertisers, and carriers address mobile users with multimedia.
There seem to be a lot of mobile media startups nowadays, where do you fit in the market?
Sachin Deshpande: There are a lot of companies driving forms of multimedia, which I think are exciting. Our company in the value chain is through messaging paradigms - particularly MMS, where our niche is. We've got a very dedicated focus to get that going correctly.
Venrock is a great venture capital name and backer for a company--how did you connect with them?
Sachin Deshpande: They are a terrific fund, and incredible helpful. How we found them was, I actually knew a couple of people there. Neeraj Coubey and Dev Khare, which I knew from various circles. I knew Neeraj when he was at Yahoo, and I knew Dev from other circles. I went to get their advice, and they thought our proposition was very exciting. They said we need to hook you up with David Siminoff, because he's got such a terrific media and entertainment background.
Did you talk with other VCs for the funding?
Sachin Deshpande: We hit a few VCs, but I really thought in this case Venrock would add really unique value. I was so impressed with them after discussing it, and saw that it was a terrific mutual fit.
How far along are you in terms of your products?
Sachin Deshpande: We are doing some really exciting things with early customers. They're not at a point where they want to talk about it, but that should be fairly soon.