Startup flees WAP portal market for higher ground

Escape Velocity finds a brighter future in the business-to-business market

Escape Velocity, a provider of WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) software, this week announced a £2.5m first round of funding from venture capital group 3i after repositioning itself as a business-to-business software provider.

It is difficult at the moment for a startup to get private financing, and Escape Velocity pulled it off by taking a path many experts foresee for other e-startups. The company was founded by chief executive Inma Martinez and chief technology officer Tom Donaldson in October 1999 as Sessami, a mobile portal targeting affluent young Londoners.

But in the wake of the new market sobriety that has swept over investors since spring of last year, Martinez and Donaldson found their best option for growth lay in the business-to-business arena. As Escape Velocity the company sells its core software for delivering a personalised WAP experience to established wireless players. Its first such customer is Ericsson, which signed on last year. The group says it is planning to expand in Europe and launch in the US.

Escape Velocity's new tack takes it into competition with larger software companies such as Autonomy, which provides personalisation software mainly for Web sites. On Tuesday Autonomy announced a deal of its own with Ericsson, building on a 1999 sale, which will roll out a multi-platform corporate portal to 100,000 users.

Autonomy's software creates a database of enterprise information, with the ability to read, understand and cross-link plain-text documents as well as voice recordings. The company's i-WAP product makes such information available via mobile.

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