MeLLmo Raises $4M to Expand its Market for Mobile Business Intelligence Software

9/22/09Follow @bvbigelow

MeLLmo, a Del Mar, CA, startup developing graphics and visualization software, has raised $4 million from private investors to accelerate its penetration in the market for 3G mobile devices. The secondary round means MeLLmo has now raised a total of $10 million from its angel investors since the company was founded 21 months ago.

“I think we’ve ended up with a whole new paradigm for how to visualize and analyze data,” says Santiago Becerra, a co-founder and MeLLmo’s chairman and CEO. While the company initially focused its software for use on Apple’s iPhone, Becerra tells me MeLLmo intends to broaden its development efforts to other 3G smart phones. And as the advantages of its software become more widely understood, Becerra says he even anticipates demand among PC users.

Roambi Cardex DisplayThe business-oriented iPhone application that MeLLmo introduced in May enables users to restructure statistics and other types of data gleaned from Excel spreadsheets, HTML table data, CSV files, and Salesforce CRM reports into interactive charts and graphical displays. The software also allows users to analyze and share their graphical displays with others.

The company, which currently has 28 employees, plans to use its new funds to expand MeLLmo’s sales and business development resources.

Becerra, who co-founded MeLLmo in January 2008, says it is his fourth company. His previous software company, Infommersion, developed Xcelsius, software that provides consolidated views of key business metrics. Becerra, a former Booz Allen & Hamilton management consultant with a Harvard MBA, sold Infommersion to Business Objects in 2005 (the software is now owned by SAP). He also was the founding CEO of Graphical Information, a software company he sold to Oracle in 1998.

Becerra tells me his current startup was still in stealth mode last year when an acquaintance began peppering him with questions about his secretive project. After Becerra rebuffed him, his friend said, “OK, just give me the name of your company.” After telling his friend he intended to call the company “Roambi,” his friend basically said, “Oh that’s easy. You’re doing roaming business intelligence.”

Roambi catalistBecerra says his friend’s guess was dead on. “We’re focused basically on creating new paradigms for visualizing information on mobile devices,” Becerra says. The encounter also is the reason he changed the name of his startup to the non-sensical “MeLLmo,” a more appropriately misleading word he got from a grandson. Roambi is now the name of MeLLmo’s flagship product.

“The opportunity we are trying to address is connecting people to data,” Becerra says. While MeLLmo’s founders anticipated that users would want to be able to use mobile devices to access data, the more crucial realization was that such data would be called up on small display screens.

“With text, we read from left to right, and from top to bottom,” Becerra says. “That’s why none of us have trouble reading email on our mobile devices. But try to do that with an Xcel spreadsheet, or a hierarchical report from SAP or Oracle. It isn’t easy.”

What Roambi does, Becerra explains, is “reverse engineer” spread sheets, tables, and collated statistical data—using software to extract the most important data and restructuring it into a small and easy-to-absorb interactive display, such as a pie chart or graph. “Innovation occurs when we are challenged by not having all the resources we need,” Becerra says. “And when you can only use one-tenth of the [PC] display screen, it really challenges the way you treat data.”

pieThe company hosts its software on a server “in the cloud,” so that customers can import their data to MeLLmo’s server, making it easy to convert a report into an interactive graphical display that can be used as a handheld analytical tool. Such data also can be easily updated and distributed to the far-flung members of an engineering group working together on a project or to members of a sales team in the field. The company also has developed an enterprise version of its software for corporate customers that prefer to host Roambi on their own server.

MeLLmo’s initial application was developed for the iPhone, and is available as a free download from the Roambi website or the Apple iTunes App Store. The company also has been developing paid versions of its publisher application with expanded functionality for enterprise business users, such as supporting SAP Web Intelligence and SAP Crystal Reports. Becerra says he expects the company will be making additional announcements on that front in coming months.

Bruce V. Bigelow is the editor of Xconomy San Diego. You can e-mail him at bbigelow@xconomy.com or call (619) 669-8788 Follow @bvbigelow

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