Intel Capital Leads $13M Round for SweetLabs in Bid to Re-Invent Desktop Experience

9/29/11Follow @bvbigelow

SweetLabs scored what could be construed as a Google seal of approval in April 2010 when the San Diego startup, then known as OpenCandy, landed $5 million in a Series B round of venture funding led by Google Ventures.

Today, the four-year-old startup says it has scored a similar coup—raising $13 million in a Series C round of venture funding led by Intel Capital, the Santa Clara, CA-based chipmaker’s global investment arm. Google Ventures and another existing investor, Bessemer Venture Partners, also participated in the round. With this latest cash infusion, SweetLabs has now raised a total of $21.5 million in venture capital.

“What’s interesting is that we weren’t officially raising capital,” says SweetLabs CEO Darrius Thompson, who co-founded the Web 2.0 startup in 2007 with Chester Ng and other expatriates of San Diego-based DivX. Thompson says Intel was among several groups that came to SweetLabs with an offer to provide additional, unsolicited venture funding. Thompson says the deal also served as a kind of pre-emptive strike by Intel to keep other potential SweetLabs investors at bay.

Investors’ keen interest was triggered by the beta launch of Pokki, a new platform the company developed to provide an “always on” app-like experience for desktop PC users. As I reported at the time, SweetLabs used the occasion to also change its name from OpenCandy—the company’s original product category—and which SweetLabs continues to operate as a Web-based advertising network and online marketplace for downloading open source software.

SweetLabs San Diego Office

Ng, who is SweetLabs director of business development and sales, might have gotten Intel’s attention when he described today’s desktop PC experience as almost “prehistoric.” He explained that SweetLabs had developed the Pokki platform as a way to bring the simplicity and ease of the mobile app experience to the desktop.

While the Pokki platform is a cloud-based system, Thompson says Pokki apps are a kind of hybrid that reside partly on the computer and partly in the Web. Some online games, for example, simply run more efficiently when part of the program is installed in the computer.

In any case, the Pokki concept resonated within Intel, according to Thompson. He says the Santa Clara chipmaker is “completely aligned” with SweetLabs’ idea of re-inventing and revitalizing the PC, which remains one of the largest ecosystems for software development.

“It was definitely really exciting for us,” Thompson says. Among other things, Intel’s willingness to invest in SweetLabs represented a … Next Page »

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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