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Cyanogen goes from Android mod to legit startup with $7M from Benchmark

Image Credit: Lifehacker

CyanogenMod is growing up.

Over the past few years, the custom Android ROM CyanogenMod (CM) has become the go-to tweak for Android phone owners who want updates faster, or who simply just want to get rid of the junky custom software from phone manufacturers and carriers.

Today, founder Steve Kondik announced that the ragtag group behind the mod are forming a company, Cyanogen, backed by $7 million in funding from Benchmark Capital. The goal? To become the world’s No. 3 smartphone OS, behind iOS and Android.

“I have seen open source projects come and go, some being bought out and closed, others stagnating and falling by the wayside. I don’t want to see this happen with CM,” said Kondik in a letter to the CyanogenMod community. “In all that chaos there have been projects that do it ‘right’, simultaneously supporting the company and the community—this is where CM will go.”

CyanogenMod completely replaces the software on your Android device with a custom image with a modern version of Android, support for multiple themes, and some custom audio tweaks. But what’s most compelling about CM is what it doesn’t have: Namely, the often annoying custom software that manufacturers often place on top of Android (like Samsung’s TouchWiz platform). Some manufacturers, like HTC, are learning to be less heavy-handed with their Android tweaks, but others seem intent on branding Android with their own software.

Kondik promises that he and the CM team will use the funding to provide faster updates, better security options, and better support for the community. He’s also planning to open up the mod to a wider set of users with a simple CM installer, which will soon be available on Google Play. (Installing the mod today involves completely reimaging your current device, which carries the risk of killing it completely if something goes wrong.)

Samsung hired Kondik back in 2011 for reasons that are still unclear, but he ended up leaving the company earlier this year. I’d wager that he was helping Samsung build up its own Android modifications.

“CM is already in use on millions of handsets, and with the simplified installer that the company is announcing simultaneously with this financing, that number is sure to grow quickly,” wrote Benchmark general partner Mitch Lasky in a blog post today. “We believe that CM is poised to become one of the largest mobile operating systems in the world.”

More information:

Benchmark Capital is a venture capital firm, responsible for the early stage funding of some very successful startups. Started in 6/1995, the company has invested in more than 150 start-ups including eBay, Ariba,Juniper Networks, Red H... read more »

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