Cozi, Climbing Ranks of Consumer Software, Looks to Deliver on Family-Focused Vision in Mobile Market

3/17/10Follow @gthuang

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the iPad on the way, Apple had “put tablet fever in the water,” as Cape puts it. (Interestingly, he had a sharp initial reaction to the iPad, saying, “I think it is the wrong device, at the wrong price, in the right space.”)

Which brings us to today—and the clearer, though still difficult, path ahead. Cape says he’s “still paranoid” and doesn’t think the company has really arrived yet. “Until you are self-sustaining, you haven’t hit the turning point,” he says. “Anything can still happen.” But he beams when he says that Cozi’s original vision is beginning to come together.

There are a couple of key strategy points for the company now. One is the mobile sector. This isn’t entirely new. Cozi already has a mobile-optimized website for the iPhone, BlackBerry, and other devices, and it offers text-message services and also makes its information available by voice at a toll-free number. But mobile “has been this feature of the comprehensive offering instead of a core component across the entire offering,” Cape says. “That’s going to change in the next six months.”

In addition to an iPhone app, Cape says the company also wants to support other Apple devices, Google Android, BlackBerry, and Palm. Not to mention netbooks, which represent some 20 percent of PC sales. Developing software for all these different platforms is a major technical challenge for any small company (Cozi has 23 employees), especially one targeting mainstream consumers. The good news is that one of the biggest problems in mobile is acquiring customers, so if Cozi users just need to migrate from their PCs and laptops to their phones, then the company could gain mobile customers relatively easily.

“A significant amount of Cozi usage will occur while the family is on some sort of mobile device,” Cape says. “We think of mobile devices on the go, in the car, but mobile devices will be used throughout the home as well.” That’s back to the idea of connected displays in different rooms—but in a new light.

The other key strategy point is the international market. “We’re being very, very opportunistic,” he says. “We are ready and willing to move into any international market when there is a strong partner there to assist.” The company’s most recent international investor (still unnamed) wants to launch Cozi in its local market, and is “interested in funding the globalization of the product,” Cape says. That means things like handling the operational issues of storing customer data locally, and redesigning the user experience around different languages and cultures. No international agreements have been signed, Cape says, but the English version of Cozi already is used by customers in 150 countries.

The company isn’t a clear success yet, of course. Its $21 million in funding from angel investors and partners like Gannett has yet to translate into profits. So Cozi still has plenty of family business left to drum up. Indeed, not until its software is prevalent on all devices in homes across the U.S. and abroad will Don Cozi be able to say he’s making offers that can’t be refused.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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