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

9/29/11Follow @bvbigelow

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huge vote of confidence that SweetLabs was right to focus on re-inventing the desktop experience. “We closed the deal in six weeks,” Thompson says, “From our first meeting to closing the deal and getting the money in the bank. That’s pretty unusual.”

As part of its June 28 announcement, SweetLabs unveiled eight apps that had been created for the desktop, including Google mail, eBay, Facebook, LivingSocial, and other popular Web-based services. The company initially developed Pokki for the Windows 7 operating system, and has extended that to include Windows Vista and Windows XP. A Pokki for Apple’s Mac “will be launched sometime in the future,” Thompson says.

To spur the creation of additional apps, SweetLabs said in June that it was making its software developers kit available to third-party programmers. Since then, Thompson says two large online music providers, Gainesville, FL-based Grooveshark and San Francisco-based Rdio, have introduced their own Pokki apps for the desktop. SweetLabs’ CEO says consumer reaction to Pokki also has been positive, “with a lot of really great sentiment around the product. The biggest negative sentiment was around, ‘Why isn’t this available on the Mac?’ “

As part of the company’s continuing effort to build out its catalog of Pokki apps, SweetLabs is today announcing an online contest intended to reward independent developers for creating additional Pokki apps, using standard Web languages like HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS3. The company plans to award a first-place $30,000 prize, a second-place $13,000 prize, and a third-place prize of $7,000, based on such criteria as utility, appearance, user experience, and quality. SweetLabs says entries must be submitted by Nov. 15 at http://www.pokki.com/contest.

The $13 million in unanticipated venture capital also will be used to hire additional product developers, product management, software engineers, designers and other new employees, Thompson says. The company recently moved into a new and bigger office in downtown San Diego (see photos on preceding page, and above), and opened new offices in Silicon Valley and Seattle. Thompson anticipates that SweetLabs will double its current workforce of 60 employees over the next year. One of the additional benefits of getting venture funding from Intel and Google, Thompson adds, is that they are major brand names among the technorati. As he puts it, “That helps with recruiting.”

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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