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Jolla closes $12M Series C for its Sailfish mobile OS licensing business

TechCrunch TechCrunch 3/05/2016 Natasha Lomas

Alternative mobile OS maker, Jolla, whose Sailfish licensing business aims to compete with Google’s Android platform by offering OEMs the ability to tailor the mobile platform to their needs, has closed out a $12 million Series C financing round.

Back in November the startup ran out of runway after failing to close its Series C in time, and was forced to let go of half its staff. It also had to begin a debt restructuring process.

Jolla says it has now cancelled that debt restructuring process, and says the $12 million Series C closing is enough to see it through to the end of the year.

The startup received the first tranche of the round at the back end of last year, but was not disclosing how much funding it had taken in at that time. It has now closed out the round, at $12 million, which is a little higher than the $10 million it had originally sought last year.

For some context on the size of the round, a new mobile OEM called Sirin Labs raised a $72 million seed round at the end of last month, aiming to build secure smartphones — a space Jolla has also previously said it intends to target with a security-hardened version of its OS (and rather more modest financial backing).

The Series C financing will be fully focused on Jolla’s Sailfish OS licensing business. It said today it is also looking to recruit more software developers to bolster its product development “for new and upcoming products”.

A new community program is also in the pipeline — but Jolla said details on this will be announced shortly.

Last year the startup stepped away from the device-making side of its business, splitting into two and saying it was focusing its initial efforts on the OS — with only a vague plan to establish another entity to continue to build devices.

“We are currently focusing strongly on software development, and licensing projects, meaning that consumer device business is not our ambition as such. However, we might of course introduce new interesting spearhead products for Sailfish OS,” Jolla chairman Antti Saarnio told TechCrunch.

Extending its licensing partnerships program is the clear priority now. As well as successfully seeing licensee devices arrive in their respective markets.

Back in February Jolla announced it had signed its second OEM partner, Africa’s  Mi-Fone, following an agreement with India’s Intex last July. The latter’s first Sailfish powered device, the Aqua Fish, had been slated to be launched in India by this month — although Jolla says now it is in the “final phases” of the project with Intex, and the device is “set to enter the Indian market during the coming months”.

Sailfish has also been chosen as the OS to power a forthcoming smartphone from Turing Robotics — another device targeting the security/pro-privacy space. The device makers had originally intended to use Android but switched to Sailfish, citing data security as the motivation.

“Sailfish OS is already running fast on the Turing phone, and we are now working together to get all the needed software in place,” added Saarnio in a statement. “We at Jolla believe that it is possible to produce niche target group smart devices in Finland, as Turing is now planning to do. Our aim is to support them in the best way we can.”

One hardware hangover for Jolla — a crowdfunded tablet that had to be canceled following the company’s Series C financial difficulties — remains, but Jolla has previously said it will refund all customers who do not receive the tablet.

The latest on the tablet is that Jolla says it has shipped nearly all available tablets to buyers, and is proceeding to fulfill promised refunds.

The refund process will take place in two parts, with Jolla saying today that it anticipates that all payments from the first round will be processed during April and May 2016. The second round is slated to be paid within a year of round one — depending on its financial status. So, presumably, depending on whether it’s able to secure a Series D round or not.

Jolla is “in the planning phase for our further financing rounds”, Saarnio added.

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