Creating a Market Leader

Situation: The lack of computational power on wireless handsets and network costs associated with wireless data rendered traditional wireline protocols ineffective for wireless communications. In early 1995, Alain Rossmann, previously an evangelist at Apple, and founder and CEO of EO Computers, along with a team of software engineers founded Unwired Planet to capitalize on this opportunity. The team spearheaded the development of the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), a protocol that eventually became the de facto standard to access the Internet from mobile devices.

Strategy: Sofinnova Venture Partners led the funding of Unwired Planet and was subsequently joined by Greylock (who became the lead investor) and Matrix Partners. The company raised four additional rounds of funding of approximately $70 million over the next four years.

Today: Unwired Planet became Phone.com and filed for an IPO. It raised $64 million at a valuation in excess of $500 million. Subsequently, Phone.com merged with software.com, a provider of server software for e-mail and messaging services, to become Openwave Systems. Over the next 12 months, Openwave achieved a market capitalization in excess of $5 billion.