Cyanogen Inc., which makes the increasingly popular Android-based mobile operating system that Google Inc. does not control, CyanogenMod, has raised $80 million in its third round of funding, led by India’s Premji Invest. Premji Invest is the venture capital and private equity business set up by Azim Premji, billionaire chairman of Bangalore-based Wipro Ltd., India’s third biggest software services company.
The series C round includes participation from new investors Twitter Ventures, Qualcomm Incorporated, Telefónica Ventures, Smartfren Telecom, Index Ventures, Access Industries (the US-based industrial group headed by Len Blavatnik), Rupert Murdoch, Vivi Nevo, and others, Cyanogen said in a press release on Monday.
Existing investors Benchmark, Andreessen Horowitz, Redpoint Ventures, and China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd. also participated.
The money will help Cyanogen, whose operating system can be found on smartphones sold by China’s OnePlus, which is switching to its own operating system Oxygen OS, and India’s Micromax Informatics Ltd., hire the people it needs to accelerate product development.
The rise of smartphones worldwide over the last two years has given birth to a market for companies such as Cyanogen to thrive in, as end users crave both serious functionality and fun themes that a stock operating system may not deliver.
Such tweaks are also becoming a strong way of differentiation for smartphone companies looking to gather a strong loyal following, as Xiaomi Inc. has demonstrated with its MiUI software.
“We invested in Cyanogen because we're big proponents of what they're doing in opening up Android and supporting global and local ecosystem players,” Sandesh Patnam, tech sector lead at Premji Invest, said in the release. “Cyanogen is well positioned to become the 3rd leading mobile OS, and we're excited to back them in growing their business on a global scale.”
Cyanogen is a community-based customisation of the stock Android operating system released by Google Inc., which competes other such tweaks. These include MiUI by China’s Xiaomi Inc., which is still largely seen as a community effort, and versions built by large brands - TouchWiz by Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., and Sense UI by Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC Corp., according to Gizmodo.
The custom skins often include features and functions that may not be found on the stock Android and most major smartphone companies tend to offer some degree of customization. Companies such as Motorola Mobility, which Google sold to China’s Lenovo Group Ltd., offer versions close to stock Android.
The latest funding round takes Cyanogen’s total funding to $110 million. While CyanogenMod is an open source project, the Palo Alto startup also makes the commercially distributed Cyanogen OS.