Jajah gets $20M, and Intel patent to take on Skype

jajah3.jpgJajah, the Internet telephone company living up to its “scrappy” reputation, has just pulled in $20 million from the venture capital arm of giant chip maker Intel and others.

This is a big endorsement for the young company, which goes up against a multitude of competitors. It now plans to target Skype, armed with a valuable patent it will borrow courtesy of Intel.

Jajah also signaled it is about to obtain funding from a major telecommunications company in three weeks or less. “The new investor will really rock the industry when it’s announced,” said chief executive Trevor Healy in a phone call with VentureBeat. He said the valuation of this latest investment is “significantly higher” than during the last round.

The move is significant beyond the stamp of credibility afforded by Intel’s brand and deep pockets. A large part of Intel’s business revolves around integrating chips into PCs. And Jajah gets access to Intel’s patent (No. 7120140) that covers interaction between digital phones and computers — and lets a telephone service be downloaded onto PCs as software. This technology would integrate Jajah’s service more seamlessly with devices, making it a so-called “softphone.” This lets it match Skype’s software. It also helps give Jajah the legal protection it needs to avoid the sort of lawsuits that plague Vonage. Jajah’s advantage over Skype is that its service calls you back on your land line or mobile phone, so you are not tethered to your PC.

Jajah’s vision now is to integrate itself into any device, and to allow you to call anywhere, anytime, from anyplace.

While Skype is moving in a similar direction, integrating its service within mobile phones, Jajah argues its back-end infrastructure is more modern than Skype’s. See our earlier coverage on this here. Jajah has been expanding coverage with confidence.

To refresh, the young company, now based in Mountain View, Calif. and Austria, lets you make cheap Internet calls from your PC or mobile phone by using the Web. You enter your recipient’s number, and Jajah’s service simultaneously hooks you up with an Internet line. I use it to call my relatives in London on a weekly basis, replacing Skype, and I’m happy with it.

This is the company’s third round of funding. It was originally backed by Sequoia Capital.

Jajah says it has more than two million users, and that number should be five million users by the end of the year. A high percentage of registered users remain active users, Healy said, but would not be more specific.