Top 25 European Cloud Computing Rising Stars Companies: Aepona

Over the next month CloudTweaks will be presenting a series covering “25 growing cloud computing start-ups in Europe”.

Some of these promising start-ups are in their initial stage of development while others are already gaining strength and market share in the global market for Cloud Computing services.We can say that most of these companies are rough diamonds that could transform into real jewels in the crown within the next several years.

Invests Smartly in Its Cloud Computing Future Development

Belfast-based Aepona ranks among the fastest growing European start-ups involved in cloud computing, according to a survey prepared by the European Tech Tour Association. Some of its top management positions are occupied by specialists who were part of the Dublin-based Aldiscon which was acquired by Logica in the mid-1990s. Former Aldiscon executives established several successful companies following the acquisition and Aepona seems to be the fastest growing among them.

Aepona’s core business is to provide cloud computing solutions to the global communications industry and over 25 mobile operators and service providers worldwide utilize company’s software products. The company’s flagship product is called Universal Service Platform (USP), which is a Network as a Service (NaaS) solution and contains all the components that are crucial for the functioning of a commercial NaaS offering. USP is suitable for individual mobile network oprators and cross-network mobile cloud providers, Aepona insists.

The product features web service exposure, payments and settlement, and partner relationship management elements which are combined and integrated in a commercial software platform. The software platform allows the application and services developed by third parties to access billing capabilities and operator’s network through the web service APIs provided by service exposure element. They are managed via a partner relationship management element and are commercialized and monetized through the payments and settlement element of the software product.

The Universal Service Platform also features complete commercial functionality for mobile cloud computing, while allowing Naas capabilities to function in both single-operator and multi-operator environments.
The company has its own vision how the cloud computing will develop in the years to come and its mobile cloud computing solutions rely on a layer called “Mobile Cloud Intelligence”. Aepona’s experts believe that mobile cloud computing enables application providers to reach and bill all mobile subscribers worldwide, regardless of the devices they utilize and regardless of customers’ operator. The company boasts the Mobile Cloud Intelligence solution takes care of dealing with complex multi-sided business models, revenue management and settlement across the application delivery value chain.

Aepona offers to mobile operators a full commercial solution for NaaS enabling providers to charge their partners for use of their network assets, while sharing the revenue collected for content and applications. In addition, the company provides mobile cloud computing solutions allowing enterprise customers to perform collaborative conference calls including mobile users regardless of device type or subscriber’s operator. This functionality is based on a firm company philosophy to provide “Any user, any network” solutions to customers. Therefore, their solution enables developers to enrich applications and services running in the web, in a SaaS cloud, on an enterprise server, or on a mobile device with additional communications and commercialization functionality. The solution allows features like “Find my friends” to be embedded into a social networking site or initiate an instant group conference call by selecting a particular function of the software.

Such remarkable achievements in the sphere of mobile cloud computing did not pass unnoticed and several large investors decided to pour money into the company during the last several years. In end-June 2010, SAP Ventures, a division of SAP AG, finalized a strategic investment in Aepona worth USD 10 million.

A month earlier, Toronto-based BlackBerry Partners Fund invested another USD 10 million in the company, while existing Aepona investors Amadeus Capital Partners, Polaris Ventures, Innovacom, Nordic Venture Partners and Sutter Hill Ventures also participated in the funding. “Aepona’s proposition is constructively aligned with the strategic goals of mobile operators, and the company is ideally positioned to capitalize on the major trends that are shaping the future of the mobile industry.” Marc Faucher, Partner at BlackBerry Partners Fund said in a press release explaining why the fund is investing in the Belfast-based company.

Another venture capital investor in Aepona is Amadeus Capital Partners Limited, which  invests across the technology spectrum in industries that include communications and networking hardware and software, media, e-commerce, computer hardware and software. Innovacom which participated in the funding of a number of telecommunication and information technology start-ups like Business Objects, Cobalt Networks, Gemplus, Infovista, Intershop, Kelkoo, LastMinute.com, Micronas, Soitec, and Tumbleweed also invested in Aepona along with Nordic Venture Partners, a venture capital company specializing in investments in the information and communications technology sector. The list of Aepona investors is rounded by Polaris Venture Partners, a company investing in early stage technology and life science businesses with exceptional promise.

During the past couple of years, Aepona managed to finalize several major deals that can secure the company’s leading market position in the future. In December 2010, the company struck a deal with Canada’s largest wireless voice and data communications services provider Rogers Communications Inc. to run a new open API service on Aepona’s Universal Service Platform 3.0, which was released in November 2010. Aepona’s Payments & Settlement Engine (PSE) was implemented in the deployment of a new business infrastructure for U.S. Cellular’s new Tone Room Deluxe storefront in October last year.

The company also managed to acquire a couple of peers between 2007 and 2009. In mid-2007, it acquired Appium, a Sweden-based application server vendor, widening its customer base and strengthening its product portfolio.

Two years later Aepona acquired Irish company Valista, a payment and settlement solutions provider allowing Aepona to offer the industry’s first complete solution for the Network as a Service (NaaS) business model.

“Aepona has secured several contracts with Tier 1 operators to implement their Open Network API programs, but until now we have lacked the monetization and settlement capabilities that are required for a true NaaS offering. With the acquisition of Valista, we can now offer Telcos the means to monetize their Open API initiatives, as well as offering third parties a convenient way to bill end-users for their services,

Allen Snyder, CEO of Aepon, commented in a press release after the deal was finalized in June 2009.

Overall, the company revenues added 50 per cent in 2009, year-on-year, and the company posted positive EBITDA. The company also sent a positive signal to potential investors last year announcing that new funding and profits will be invested in additional sales and businesses development resources.

By Kiril Kirilov

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