numobiq.jpgNumobiq, a company developing software to turn low-end mobile phones into smartphones, has raised $4.5 million from Benchmark Capital.

The Pleasanton, Calif. company launched two years ago, when former Sun engineer Mark Young became frustrated with his cellphone. He lived in San Jose, Calif., and commuted to Pleasanton, some 35 miles away, but even though his commute was predictable every day, he couldn’t easily get traffic congestion alerts sent to his phone.

Instead, he was forced to load an application, and then search for traffic conditions manually. Why, he asked, wasn’t there a way to push it all to his phone? In 2005, he left Sun to find a way to make phones smarter.

Two years later, he’s emerged with a software, currently in trials with carriers, that sits on top of a mobile phone’s operating system alongside the application platforms J2ME and Brew. Young calls the technology a “smart pipe,” because it allows telecom carriers to remotely deliver any applications or updates, as well as install new protocols.

Partner Mitch Lasky at Benchmark Capital had worked with a Numobiq employee earlier at Jamdat — and thus the connection leading to the investment.

numobiq2.jpgYoung, now Numobiq’s chief executive officer, served as a technical lead for more than five years on Sun’s Java 2 Platform, Micro Edition (J2ME), giving him vital experience both with mobile devices application development and the ins and outs of the mobile industry.

Young told us there’s no reason to shell out $400 to Apple to get a decent smart phone. He said all phones are capable of delivering a richer experience. Numobiq’s software is built around Javascript, so it can use web services on its platform, and it functions 24/7, so that applications can run on background throughout the day — something that isn’t possible on most Java phones today, he said.

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