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HQ: Redwood City, CA, with its development office in Milan, Italy

Founded: 2002

Management: The CEO is Fabrizio Capobianco, who previously worked at Reuters and Tibco, and was the founder of an Italian Web company, Internet Graffiti, as well as Stigma Online. He holds a PhD in computer science. The CTO and founder is Stefano Fornari, who was project manager of Sync4j, the open-source mobile application server that is Funambol’s flagship product.

Investors: This month, the company raised $5 million in Series A from Walden International and H.I.G. Ventures.

Business Model: Funambol’s Sync4j is an open-source mobile application server that does data synchronization, application provisioning, and device management. For instance, a Blackberry user might use it to wirelessly access data from his or her company’s customer relations management system. Or an IT department could do a wireless data transfer without having to pay high licensing fees to a non-open-source vendor. The product is aimed at developers who need to extend an existing product to the mobile space, or who are looking to create a new mobile application. Funambol (“foo-nahm-ball”) charges a fee for using its software to create proprietary applications. Sync4j clients are available for Microsoft Outlook and mobile devices, including Blackberry, iPod, Java Phones, Palm, Symbian, and Windows Mobile. The company currently has a big partnership with Nokia, as well as with some big open-source players, including Jboss and SugerCRM.

Competitors: RIM, Good Technology, Microsoft ActiveSync, Visto

Dirt: The company claims that it was profitable prior to funding. What’s more, its CEO predicts that all of its non-open-source competitors, such as Visto and Good Technology, will be out of business within a few years because open-source software outfits charge much less than non-open-source companies. Open-source startups are very cocky – but there’s also no denying that trends are in their favor. If Funambol can continue to expand sales, it could be the next Jboss or MySQL. Right now, it’s keen on maintaining a balance between open-source developers and businesses: its name means “tightrope walker” in Italian.

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