A true mExperience

Last year was memorable for TrueContext Corp., a fledgling ISV which makes software for building forms to run on handheld devices.

It signed its first wireless operator, Rogers Communi-cations, which is hosting a solution built on its mExperience platform, and Microsoft Canada and Hewlett-Packard Canada, whose solution providers will create more opportunites.

A U.S. managed service provider also agreed to host its solutions.

The four-year-old Ottawa startup also scored $8.9 million in second stage financing, led by a U.S. venture capital firm.

But 2006 was barely a month old before the company made another big announcement: Founder Alvaro Pombo was kicking himself out of the CEO’s chair and turning it over the Jeff Lindauer, a former senior executive at several U.S. telecommunications companies.

Pombo will remain president as well as add the title of executive chairman. But from his base in San Francisco, Lindauer will lead True Context’s next challenge, expanding into the United States.

The move is being done to “strengthen the operational side, and to start heading south of the border,” Pombo explained.

Pombo got into software development after working in IT for multinational companies in South America, the U.S. and Canada.

Those years, he said, taught him how hard it is to get information from far away to the centre of an organization and the endless reams of paper people in the field have to fill out.

When he moved to Ottawa to become vice-president of e-commerce at Newbridge Networks, and later, when it was sold to Alcatel, chief information officer, he tried unsuccessfully to do something about it.

Utilize PDAs
“At one point I said, ‘I’m going to create a software company that’s going to make the whole process easier.’”

His idea was to enable workers to fill out forms on wireless handhelds such as iPaqs and BlackBerrys.

Leaving Alcatel in 2000, he hired a programmer to work with him. Securing venture financing the following year, more staff were hired. In early 2004 the first release was ready. Early adopters helped hone the platform.

mExperience is a set of tools enabling the creation of mobile forms on devices running the Windows Mobile and Symbian operating systems. A J2EE version is now in beta.

It’s tailored for small and medium companies using off-the-shelf applications such as QuickBooks or Excel spreadsheets, but it can later be connected to more sophisticated applications when the business grows.

Rather than sell the software, TrueContext looks for wireless operators and managed service providers to either host forms applications or build custom solutions, as well as sign partners with extensive solution provider networks to build and sell solutions.

So, for example, Rogers is selling a hosted subscription solution called mForms, with a number of customizable modules that also connects to Microsoft CRM 3.0.

“We thought (TrueContext) had a great simple solution,” said Mansell Nelson, vice-president of planning and business at Rogers Business Solutions.

VAR opportunities
He hopes to recruit VARs and ISVs not only to resell mForms but also customize it for subscribers.

Meanwhile, Microsoft Canada is identifying to TrueContext members of its partner community who can create solutions.

Pombo won’t say much about the HP partnership because it’s still in the early stage.

For now the focus is on proving its channel model in Canada to strengthen its U.S. expansion. This will be the company’s breakout year, Pombo predicts. It remains to be seen if that form will be filled out so easily.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of ITWorldCanada.com and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including ITBusiness.ca and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@] soloreporter.com

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