Kinvey, Out to Kick Butt and Build Mobile Backends, Lands $5M in VC

7/11/12Follow @gthuang

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it’s hard to build a business around developers, because they don’t have that much money to spend. “That’s not true,” he says. “It’s not an issue.” As Sridhar puts it, there’s “no free alternative” to what Kinvey provides.

What’s clear to me is there’s a new set of software development techniques taking hold in the industry. For now it’s being lumped together as “mobile” development, but that word will soon be redundant, if it’s not already. Boston-area mobile software companies like Kinvey, Crashlytics, Apperian, Raizlabs, Mobiquity, and Jana—not to mention the new crop of mobile advertising startups—will come to define a new generation of software on all kinds of devices. (And, not surprisingly, Kinvey’s technology works for Web and tablet apps as well as iPhone and Android phones.)

“Backend as a service is going to change the way software development is done,” Sridhar says, and it’s going to happen “this decade.” The more fundamental idea is that all software platforms—mobile devices, tablets, wearable devices, Internet of things, whatever—will need to exchange information with the cloud, he says. And that the “entire backend for apps will get standardized,” he adds.

Skeptics say backend development is too customized to be provided effectively as a service. But, according to Sridhar, this is just an old way of thinking—along the lines of saying a few years ago, before cloud computing really took hold, that all companies need their own servers and data centers to run their software. (It’s probably still the case that some companies need custom backends, though.)

In the meantime, backend as a service lives in a very cluttered ecosystem in which all the various players are jockeying for position. For example, Sridhar says, some competing providers of “platform as a service” are trying to position themselves as more important and more encompassing—that backend as a service is just a feature. “We’re solving the problems of 10, 20, 30 people” (backend developers) in a company, Sridhar counters. “How can you call it a feature?”

I want no part of that messy, technical dispute. But as we’re finishing up, Sridhar reminds me that he’s also thinking globally about his company’s future. Consider the market opportunity in India, he says, where there are some 300 million mobile phone users, many of them transitioning to smartphones as we speak. Sridhar is a native of India, and despite the popular misconception that he’s from Texas, he left there in 2003 after college and lived most recently in Europe before coming to Boston in 2009.

“The IT services being pushed [globally] need a frontend and a backend,” he says. “I want to build a big, international company.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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