CTIA: Handango CEO Randy Eisenman on $60 million VC round

I had a chance to sit down with the CEO of Handango, Randy Eisenman today, to discuss the company’s recent round of funding (a whopping $60 million) and larger trends facing the smartphone-enabled side of the mobile content industry. Eisenman told me that the money would largely be spent on global expansion—primarily organic, with an aggressive push into Europe sometime in 2007 and eventually a push into APAC sometime the year after that. Eisenman rebuffed questions about an acquisition, which is to be expected, but with $60 million in the bank…c’mon that’s got “acquisition spree” written all over it! Expansion into Europe is particularly interesting to Handango since there’s lots of low-hanging fruit there, as smart phones are more commonly used by consumers and they don’t have the same working-stiff stereotype as they do here. Handango’s partners, like RIM, Microsoft and Nokia are also encouraging the company to push into Europe. If you look at the numbers, smartphones served 68 million people last year and more than 600 million the following year, but to continue that climb developers will need to make sure that the content is up to snuff. The next crop of users aren’t first adopter types and they’re not going to put up with a poor user experience. Handango wants to tackle those same issues that face all handsets (smart or not), looking to enable mobile content uptake: poor user interfaces and cumbersome content navigation. Smartphones still need to work those issues out too, according to Eisenman. But the timing is right for a shift in the smartphone market toward the consumer, and Eisenman says that he sees signs of it creeping up on us day-by-day: “[Here in L.A.] I saw two young college women sitting at a Starbucks and one of them was using a BlackBerry, then a minute later the other takes out her Treo… and I thought the only twenty-something year-old smartphone users worked at Handango!” -Brian