Xamarin Raises $12M to Fuel Native Cross-Platform App Development

Xamarin, the startup bringing native cross-platform development to a whole host of existing developers in a language they already know and understand, today announced $12 million in funding. This is the first outside investment for the previously bootstrapped company, and co-founder and CEO Nat Friedman says it’s something that should help the company make big gains on the back of its existing organic growth.

So far, Xamarin hasn’t spent anything on getting the word out about its product, and yet in its first year alone its platform has been used by over 150,000 developers, via 7,500 paying customer companies. The Xamarin platform has also helped bring in more than 12,000 new developers per month, according to Friedman. Why? Because it’s making no-compromise cross-platform mobile development with a significant shared code base possible, and thereby enabling developers with expertise in the C# programming language (which is used by a huge number of existing developers trained to work in Microsoft enterprise environments) participate without having to learn a new programming language from scratch.

“Businesses are just starting to figure out that mobile’s really important and strategic, so they’re asking themselves ‘How do we build great apps, for our customers and as part of our business software?’ and what they’re finding is in between them and mobile nirvana are several hurdles they have to clear,” Friedman told BetaKit in an interview. “The first is that people really want native apps. You’ve noticed a few articles lately and rumors swirling that Facebook’s gotten a lot of terrible reviews about their iPhone app and they’ve had to go and rewrite the entire thing from scratch, as a native app instead of as a hybrid web app.”

Besides that most evident example, Friedman also points to Google’s decision to launch its recently released native Google+ app for iPad, which garnered the company and its social network a lot of favorable attention. And while native is important to users, it isn’t easy for developers, as Friedman notes when talking about a second hurdle companies face in app development.

“The device world is super-fragmented. It’s not like the PC world was where there’s one dominant operating system,” he said. “You have Android, which is enormous, you have iOS, which is smaller by installed base but enormous by revenue, and then you have sort of a third platform, between BlackBerry shrinking and Windows Phone rising.” Even if it’s mostly a two-cart race, it’s a very different picture from Windows and its longtime dominance of enterprise and consumer desktops.

With Xamarin, developers can build the business logic and middleware components of the app via shared code, so that bugs and things that affect the actual functional underpinning of the apps they create are easier to target and zap once without rework. And then the UI elements that sit on top can be coded natively, ensuring that there’s no compromise in terms of user experience with leaving out features, for instance, to ensure cross-platform compatibility using only functions that are available in each different mobile OS.

Xamarin already has a number of impressive clients, including Rdio, which uses its platform for development of its Android and WP7 apps, and will soon employ it for its iOS offering, too. The new investment likewise comes from noteworthy sources, including Charles River Ventures, Ignition and Floodgate. Friedman says the money will be used to help hire on additional staff to build out a proper sales and marketing team, as well as to fuel additional product development, since he says the company believes strongly that “the quality of [their] product is the best marketing.”

There are no shortage of companies trying to capitalize on the rising trend in mobile, and the subsequent need for cross-platform development tools. PhoneGap is one popular option, which uses HTML5, Javascript and CSS to get the job done, and it’s achieved a lot of early traction. But Xamarin’s approach is likely to resonate better with enterprise demands, and is a good complement to existing developer talent out in the field that otherwise might not have the skills required to do much in mobile. Those factors, combined with this new funding, should help it continue to accelerate its impressive growth.

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