Belfast SMS firm raises €11.5m

28 Apr 2003

Belfast-based short messaging service (SMS) and Wap pioneer AePONA has secured €11.5m in venture capital funding in an investment led by Trinity Venture Capital and Amadeus Capital Partners.

In what may be the largest venture capital investment raised to date, the investment was supported by Invest Northern Ireland.

Technology entrepreneur Gilbert Little’s AePONA has developed an interface for fixed and mobile telecom networks that allow operators to rapidly develop new services. Based on the international OSA/Parlay standards, AePONA’s Causeway product provides network operators with a secure operating system to enable developers to deploy applications such as call control, location-based services, administration, rating and messaging services. The Causeway product enables operators to enjoy new revenue or generate savings through efficiency-generating services rapidly.

The product has so far been implemented by a number of major telecom carriers including Telecom Italia, Orange and KPN.

According to analysts, the market for OSA/Parlay-based products is worth in excess of €900m over the next five years.

AePONA was established in 1995 as a subsidiary of Aldiscon, which was subsequently acquired by Logica in 1997. The subsidiary was retained by the original investors, including Little, renamed Apion Ltd, and went on to become a leading supplier of Wap Gateway technology for GSM networks. In 1999, Apion’s product assets were acquired for US$250m by and the remaining business, led by the same management, was re-launched as AePONA. The company currently employs 140 people in Belfast, Dublin and Guildford.

Little says: “The new investment will allow us to rapidly expand our sales, marketing and delivering capability to exploit the global opportunity in the OSA/Parlay infrastructure products field.”

Invest Northern Ireland’s chief executive Leslie Morrison says: “Invest’s strategy to develop the ICT [information and communications technology] sector includes supporting companies, such as AePONA, to develop products and services with global market potential. This is an excellent example of an Invest client company recognising the role which venture capital can play to help small to medium sized enterprises, particularly in the knowledge and technology-led sectors, to grow faster.

AePONA has quickly gained a dominant position in an embryonic but rapidly expanding market and we are impressed with what they have already achieved in terms of sales, market footprint and product innovation.”

By John Kennedy