Seeing your babies grow up is often sad, but seeing them marry off for over $400 million can really take the sting away. Mobile365 (formerly Inphomatch) announced this evening a deal to be acquired for $425 million by Sybase.
I still remember the first time I met the Inphomatch team in 2000 at a business plan competition in Virginia. They were young, brash and full of passion for what they could do in the nascent mobile data space. The technical founder, Terry Hsiao, was smart, but a handful. Kirk Tsai helped create the first prototypes and plan scalability. The new CEO, Colin Matthews, served the role of grey-hair but he was much more than that. Colin saw a way to leverage Inphomatch’s mobile data technology into a real business solution — bridging text messaging across carriers that launched SMS as unconnected islands. The two Bill’s, Bachrach and Peters, were scary operators who learned their craft at GE and would help a small unknown Virginia company named InphoMatch become the traffic cop for intercarrier SMS in the US and beyond.
If I didn’t make the investment in the company, someone else would have. But I’m sure glad I was the first. That hunt and rare find are what makes this business such a drug. It was fun watching text messaging explode from behind the scenes and helping make it happen. It was also fun introducing follow-on investment from partners like Draper Fisher Jurvetson who saw the promise and added financial fuel to the fire. Coopting MobileWay along the way to create Mobile365 solidified the company as an international force to be reckoned with.
I mention Terry, Kirk, Bill, Bill and Colin here, not because they rode the wave all the way to Sybase signing, but specifically because they didn’t, and I wasn’t there throughout to remind everyone who founded the gravy train. Those guys are all off doing different things now, but they deserve as much mention as anyone for being the spark that ignited a world-changing company. Can you imagine a world that only allowed AT&T (first customer) or VoiceStream (second customer) subscribers to text in-network, but not other networks? I sure can’t, American Idol sure can’t and those guys unlocked the SMS potential for all networks.
Congratulations Inphomatch founders, you were the spark that made it possible, and I appreciate the time we shared building it together! What can we do next??