Where it's based: Seattle
When it was founded: 2008
Why it's Fierce: Swype's technology--which was developed by Cliff Kushler, the inventor of the popular T9 text input system for 12-key keypads--was originally designed to help disabled people input text on screens.
Today, Swype's executives argue that the basic tap input method for phones has not evolved along with the devices themselves. Thus, the company hopes to bring text input into the smartphone, touchscreen age with a technology that allows users to simply drag their finger from key to key to type, thereby making typing faster and simpler. The system, which uses a predictive algorithm to anticipate which word a user wants, is innovative and easy to master after only a little practice.
Swype has secured funding from Nokia and Samsung--signs of serious industry support--and Samsung even has a TV advertising campaign for the technology (though Swype is not mentioned by name). Swype is currently on six phones, including the HTC HD2 and the forthcoming Samsung Galaxy S, and carriers are including Swype at the basic device specification level.
What's next: Look for Swype to appear on more handsets this year. The biggest challenge right now, the company said, is having enough scale to meet customer demand--the firm only has 25 employees. Swype COO Aaron Sheedy said the company has a lofty goal of eventually getting onto a billion devices. How long before it gets to that point? "Hopefully not a decade," he said.