With $2.3M in New Funding, Bump Network Steers to Business

11/8/12Follow @bvbigelow

[Clarified 11/8/12, 9:30 am. See below.] Web entrepreneur Mitch Thrower is bumping up the funding at San Diego’s Bump.com, the online social network for people with cars.

Bump.com’s parent company, the Bump Network, says it has closed on $2.3 million in a second Series B round of financing. Investors include TomorrowVentures, the investment vehicle for Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, New York’s J. Chris Burch (through his JCB Investments), ZIG Capital, San Diego’s Moore Venture Partners, La Jolla Holding Co., and several super angel investors. The current round brings the total capital raised at Bump to $4.5M, according to a statement from the company yesterday.

In a related move, Thrower tells me the company has recruited Shannon Day, a onetime Microsoft cloud services executive, to serve as Bump’s chief operating officer. Day previously headed Radar Sports, a startup he founded last year in Bellevue, WA, that develops mobile apps to help athletes find swimming and workout locations. Day spent the decade before that helping Microsoft transform its cloud services business through sales and marketing initiatives that included working with such customers as Boeing, Starbucks, Nordstrom, and Wells Fargo.

Thrower founded the Bump Network in 2009. His focus was initially on the social media experience, including mobile app technology that enables Bump members to scan a license plate with their smartphone camera. The company’s technology allows members to use a car’s license plate number to send messages and even place calls through the Bump network. As I’ve written before, it’s a great solution to the kind of problem that Richard Dreyfuss faced in his quest to meet the sexy blonde driving the T-bird in the movie American Graffiti.

But with guidance from his new investors, Thrower says the company has been steering to focus on services for business customers, a market that should prove to be far more lucrative. In comparison, Thrower said the social networking part of Bump represents “a very small piece of the overall value proposition.”

[Clarifies company structure.] In a note this morning, Thrower says the company is structured so the Bump Network provides SaaS based data, registration, transaction, and membership management technology to the company’s customers. The company also provides its software used for Bump.com, one of its own brands.

One example of Bump’s revised strategy is an auto club program that offers roadside assistance and discounts on hotel rooms, restaurants, car rentals, and other products and services for people who join the Bump Network. In other words, the company is offering some incentives to join the Bump Network for the motorists who aren’t necessarily motivated by their raging hormones.

Another potentially lucrative market: businesses that could use license plate information to maintain their customer list or membership rolls. For example, a parking garage could use the Bump Network’s license plate scanning technology to identify motorists entering the facility and to charge their customer account. The garage also could use the system to send e-mails, customized discounts, and targeted marketing messages to its regular or monthly customers.

Thrower sees a host of other opportunities in scanning the license plates of cars at football games, NASCAR races, and similar events.

Bump says proceeds of its $2.3 million round will be used to significantly ramp up the company’s software-as-a-service business. The company now has 14 employees, and Thrower plans to expand the staff to somewhere between 20 and 25. In a statement from Bump yesterday, Thrower says, “With our proprietary software and technology, we are uniquely positioned to build on our continuing success in attracting enterprise customers.”

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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