Microsoft Invests in Mobile Collaboration Startup Zula

"Mobile-first" emerges as a venture capital strategy for a software titan that made its fortunes on desktop software.

After making a splash at TechCrunch Disrupt, Zula has attracted funding from Microsoft Ventures.

The startup, which took home the Audience Choice Award at the event, impressed Microsoft enough that the software giant provided a seed fund investment, announced Rahul Sood, general manager of Microsoft Ventures. Zula, pronounced "Zoo-lah" the company helpfully states on its Website, specializes in helping workforces collaborate and stay productive on their smartphones.

Zula's warm reception at TechCrunch Disrupt "was a clear signal that this is a company on a major growth trajectory because they solve challenges that so many teams face when collaborating via mobile devices," said Sood in a statement. The firm's mobile-first, social-enabled "outside the inbox" approach earned it an undisclosed amount from Microsoft.

Zula is a mobile team communications and collaboration platform that consolidates Zula contacts alongside those from Facebook, LinkedIn and Gmail. Available on iOS and Android, it provides secure and private group and one-on-one messaging, file sharing and one-touch conference calling capabilities.

The Android version arrived this month on Google Play, announced Zula on Nov. 8. Emphasizing the app's cross-platform support, the company boasted in a blog post that regardless "if your team is made up of iPhone users, Android users or a combination of both," users can leverage Zula's features to maintain "a good conversation flow instead of getting lost in an email thread."

In a Microsoft Ventures blog post, Zula co-founder and Chairman Jeff Pulver, formerly of Vonage, said his startup "wanted a simple way to connect, share documents and make group calls that was built for a mobile team." With its coffers full of Microsoft money, the company is looking "forward to bringing our service to new customers around the world," he added.

Pulver and Zula CEO Jacob Ner-David are serial entrepreneurs and "pioneers in VOIP technology," noted Sood. "Their leadership in the communication market continues with a mobile app that has a ton of great features and strong integration with Facebook and LinkedIn," he said. And the company targets enterprises and small and midsize businesses (SMBs) alike with a "broad focus on customers of all sizes."

The deal comes a month after Microsoft Ventures made a similar investment in SkyGiraffe, another mobile-friendly firm.

The startup, with offices in Mountain View, Calif., and Herzliya, Israel, provides cloud-based services that allows organizations to deploy and link secure, job-specific apps with enterprise databases (Oracle, MySQL, MongoDB and Microsoft SQL Server) in as little as 15 minutes.

Asserting that "application services are a strategic priority for enterprise companies," Sood stated that the company's tech "provides a SaaS platform that helps businesses deploy enterprise-grade mobile applications on any device immediately and without the need for writing code."

Microsoft Ventures turned its attention toward online education earlier this month. On Nov. 5, it announced an investment in Ranku, a "discovery engine that helps students and adults looking to further their education navigate the process and find reputable online colleges," according to Microsoft.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...