Intel Backs OSS Firm

Telecom software specialist Tribold has bagged $11 million in a new round of VC funding led by Intel Capital , a move that's significant not only for the startup but for the broader OSS (operations support systems) sector. (See Tribold Pockets $11M.)

Here's why it's important for the OSS sector:

Tribold is one of a handful of companies developing and marketing a product data management system (PDMS) -– that is, a set of software tools that enable carriers to identify and manage the component service parts, such as access, video, authentication, and so on, from which they build their products, such as IPTV. (See Tribold Updates Its OSS and Telcos Enter the Factory Age.)

This building block approach is also known in the telecom world as the creation and management of service and product catalogs, and is an area Light Reading has already highlighted as increasingly important for carriers as they look for more efficient ways, in terms of time, cost, and human resources, to develop, build, deliver, and get paid for new services. (See Telcos Soften Up, Why OSS Silos Must Come Down, and EuroBites: OSS Matters.)

And it's important enough to have sparked some OSS acquisitions during the past year involving some of Tribold's rivals, Axiom and Ceon. (See Comptel Snaps Up Axiom and Convergys Swallows OSS Specialist.)

Now Intel has identified this OSS niche as important, and it fancies Tribold's chances of being one of the leading players.

And that kind of high-profile backing gives everyone confidence that this is an important company playing in an important market.

Marcos Battisti, a sector director at Intel Capital EMEA, tells Light Reading that Tribold is "solving a problem for the carriers -– this is something the carriers are really looking for. It enables them [the operators] to manage their silos, develop innovative new services at a fast pace, grow their businesses, and cut costs too."

And, he believes, Tribold has an edge on its immediate rivals as well as the OSS sector's big guns, such as Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) and Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), that have been keen to stress their PDMS credentials too.

"In the OSS market, if you have a 'me too' product then you won't make it against the likes of Amdocs and Oracle. Tribold has a good chance of pulling through the [current economic climate] and becoming a big player. They have one of, if not the, top solution in an innovative sector, especially when compared with the offerings from the big players," says Battisti.

"I checked out the CEO, the team, and the company, and quickly realized they were the best in class, with a very competent management team. Often I talk to companies that have a good solution but don't have the management team to match, but Tribold does," adds the Intel man.

Stamp of approval
For Tribold, Intel's involvement in the round adds a major name to its list of backers: Existing investors, Eden Ventures and DFJ Esprit LLP , contributed to the round, but "the lion's share" came from Intel Capital, which "sought us out, which is slightly unconventional in the way it came around," says Tribold's CEO John Rainger. (That's a version of events confirmed independently by Battisti.)

And the fact that Intel Capital sought out Tribold and then liked what it found is a big tick against the company's reputation and standing in the telecom software and service creation world.

Rainger says the new money will "help us expand in the U.S., where we already have people on the ground, and expand our product set into the service catalogue area" with the development of capabilities that enable the further decomposition of services into their component parts.

The startup previously raised $15 million in a Series B round in March 2007, which was preceded by unspecified initial investments from Eden Ventures in 2006 and 2005. (See Tribold Secures $15M.)

The CEO says he expects Tribold -- which has Telekom Austria AG (NYSE: TKA; Vienna: TKA), Telecom New Zealand Ltd. (NYSE: NZT; New Zealand: TEL), and Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS) as named customers -- to tun profitable during the first half of 2009, and doesn't expect the company to need to raise further VC backing. (See Tribold Wins at T Austria.)

Rainger also says the company, which has about 70 staff and counts Comverse Inc. (Nasdaq: CNSI) and IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) as reseller partners, has three paid pilots in Europe and one in the U.S., though he can't name the carriers involved.

It seems likely, though, that one of them is Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), as the Spanish giant has been involved in the TM Forum -backed Managed Syndicated Services Project along with Tribold, Accenture , CA Technologies (Nasdaq: CA), Iptivia Inc. , Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), and Netcracker Technology Corp. (See CA Joins OSS Catalyst and Tribold Shows Off at TMW.)

"We have a strong pipeline and that's holding up well. No one is backing off or changing their timelines," says Rainger. "Speed to market and operational efficiency is even more important in these conditions. Carriers are embracing the central catalogue approach."

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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