Qualcomm Ventures Leads New Investment Round in Revived Visage Mobile

San Diego’s Qualcomm Ventures is showing its confidence in Visage Mobile‘s back-from-the-dead strategy by leading a new investment round in the San Francisco-based company.

Tim Weingarten, who stepped in as Visage CEO in 2008, tells me the company has secured $4.5 million in its second round venture funding since 2008, when the company sold most of its assets to Convergys on terms that were not disclosed. Visage Mobile basically restarted its business in late 2008 under the same name, but with a different business focus on Software-as-a-Service technology that enables customers to better control their costs and to set policies that govern employee usage of smartphones and mobile broadband.

The company previously specialized in developing software for mobile virtual network operators like Disney Mobile, which closed down at the end of 2007. In its previous incarnation, Visage Mobile raised about $93 million through at least five rounds of venture capital funding since it was founded in 2001 until it hit the wall in 2008.

The company built its new strategy to provide Software-as-a-Service around technology that Visage Mobile had gained through its October 2007 acquisition of Pleasanton, CA-based Agistics. Luckily, the Agistics buyout was part of a planned expansion that was made possible by a $10 million venture round that had closed just four months earlier. Weingarten says the company was able to launch its new product in 18 months. Visage Mobile’s investors at that time included UMC Capital, Nomura, Worldview Technology Partners, Mobius Venture Capital, Advanced Technology Ventures, Vesbridge Partners, Emergence Capital Partners, Palisades Ventures and Selby Ventures Partners.

After scrapping the old business plan, the company re-capitalized in mid-2009 with $2 million invested by Vesbridge Partners and Emergence Capital Partners. It wasn’t an easy sell, Weingarten says, noting that the previous year or so “certainly was a tough time to be talking to VCs.” Visage Wireless now has 25 employees, Weingarten says. In an e-mail yesterday afternoon, Weingarten adds, “As part of the restart all the investors who were believers and supportive of the new product and market direction were able to maintain their equity ownership. This includes Emergence Capital, Worldview Technology Partners, and Vesbridge Capital.”

Those three investors, along with ATA Ventures, joined Qualcomm (NASDAQ: QCOM) in the current round. Weingarten tells me the funding will be used to further invest in Visage Mobile’s product development, go-to-market strategies, and Web-based services.

“One of the things that got Qualcomm excited was the fact that we were able to launch our service [in 2009] and grow our customer base to 100 customers that fast and in such a difficult environment,” Weingarten says. The current investment round reflects Qualcomm’s recognition of the strong pain point that managing mobile phones poses for corporate IT managers, Weingarten says.

In a statement issued by Visage Mobile, Nagraj Kashyap of Qualcomm Ventures says, “We believe Visage Mobile is well positioned to change the way businesses look at their wireless management and [will] help proliferate the use of mobile broadband devices.”

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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