biNu Raises $2M, Gives 3G Speeds to 2G Feature Phones

By Andrew James , written on August 15, 2012

From The News Desk

biNu is actively playing an important part in emerging markets. The company has managed the impossible feat of making social media sites, like Facebook and Twitter, as fast on any Java-running 2G feature phone as  on a 3G smartphone. As well, it’s just as interactive. While the average iPhone toter may not be among their target market, biNu manages to pull in over four million monthly active users, specifically targeting developing nations. Today biNu announces their $2 million in Series A funding from Eric Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures, as well as Australian investor, Paul Bassat among several others. They've focused on acquiring investors with a strong social objective and want to actually make a difference.

The beauty of biNu is the simplicity with which they’ve solved the issues of bandwidth, and also how that has allowed them to roll out the application across developing nations. By including sites that have major draw, they’ve managed to quickly increase their user base across geographic regions. It’s the simple increase in connectivity that biNu gives feature phones in areas where Internet access – not to mention a 3G connection are sparse.

“[We] use a variety of techniques to improve the bandwidth efficiency,” says biNu’s co-founder and CEO, Gour Lentell. The most significant aspect that biNu manages, is the amount of processing that's needed just to engage with a site like Facebook. Whereas there's been a focus on having the phone, or browser, doing the heavy lifting recently, biNu handles most data processing  in the cloud, so it can package and sending out a smaller data set to the phone.  They use compression, caching and preloads to get pages to the user, and loaded, as quickly as possible. Meaning that the only aspect of their application that really gets updated is the screen and the rest is done by biNu. It's fast too. On a recent trip to Silicon Valley, Lentell says he was able to load pages faster using his 2G feature phone than on a 3G smartphone.

Lentell says he and co-founder Dave Turner viewed the landscape wondering where they could apply their technology to make the most difference. Their efforts have paid off, with viral growth across these areas that's interestingly jumping across borders as well.

“[We] started out with some great core technology,” Lentell says, and then they built a social experience around that. On most feature phones, you can only run one application at a time. If you need to switch between two apps, it requires shutting one down just to load up the other. By loading applications into biNu’s platform, it takes the processing away from the phone – and the wonky one-program-at-a-time Java environment.

biNu’s dominant regions are Asia and Africa, with India and Nigeria standing out front. But moving forward, they’re focusing on the next stage of growth. Lentell also hopes that local developers, who know the needs of their local communities, will begin to create apps on their platform, ones that can be tailored to a very specific audience – a very important aspect for a company playing host to such a diverse crowd. As well, Android is very significant already says Gour about the platform's presence in developing environments. biNu itself is available on Android and usable on any Java enabled feature phones.

biNu opens an enormous gateway to integrating emerging markets into the mobile world. Essentially, almost any app that you run on your smartphone can be built into their environment making it accessible to almost any phone around the world. biNu currently offers up almost all the Google offerings, including Search, YouTube, and Translate as well as some of their own including a chat program called Messenger, and music offerings with biNu Beats.