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Google chief Schmidt takes stake in Sydney start-up BiNu

Thursday, 16 August 2012 | By Oliver Milman

A Sydney start-up has secured a landmark investment from Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt, amid a growth push in developing countries around the world.


BiNu, a mobile app platform for low-end mobile phones, has received the $2 million investment from a group of backers, including Schmidt’s Tomorrow Ventures fund.


The business anticipates it will attract a further $1 million in funding, which has yet to be finalised.


Investors alongside Schmidt include Paul Bassat, founder of recruitment site Seek, and David Risher, founder of Worldreader.org.


The deal represents a remarkable rise by BiNu, which was founded by Sydney entrepreneurs Gour Lentell and Dave Turner in 2008. Its core technology was launched 18 months ago after an intensive research and development phase.


The business offers the chance for low-tech mobiles in the developing world to access apps via a cloud-based service that’s quicker and easier to use than mobile-based internet.


Lentell and Turner purchased the intellectual property for the technology from a paging provider and now attract more than four million monthly users across the globe, with monthly growth of 20%.


“At its core, this is about how to get apps on phones much more effectively,” Lentell tells StartupSmart. “The frustrations people have with the mobile internet are as much about the wireless system as the device itself.”


“Our technology looks to do as much as possible in the cloud, using the vast processing availability there rather than in the device. Requesting lots of HTML data within the device is bandwidth inefficient and a very daft way of doing things, when you think about it.”


Via an intermediary, the duo were put in touch with various Silicon Valley investors, including Tomorrow Ventures. Around a dozen backers in the US and Australia have put money into the business.


“This is Eric’s (Schmidt’s) own money we’re talking about, so he’s reviewed it all,” says Lentell. “I haven’t met him in person yet, he’s a busy guy, but I look forward to doing that soon.”


BiNu has a team of 15 based in Sydney, with plans to grow the team further and incorporate the business in the US.


Bassat said in a statement: "I am excited to have become an investor in BiNu. It is attacking a massive market, showing extremely strong growth in its subscriber base and its members are very loyal thanks to a rich content experience combined with social capabilities.”


“BiNu is making an enormous difference to the lives of people in the developing world by providing them with a rich internet experience.”