Ina Fried

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Exclusive: Motorola Mobility to Acquire Ex-Googlers’ Stealthy Android-for-the-Enterprise Start-Up

Motorola Mobility plans to announce later on Monday the acquisition of 3LM, a tiny 10-person Mountain View start-up with the little goal of making Android a secure platform for the enterprise.

The company, which is also just on the verge of launching its product, was started by two former Google employees from the Android team. CEO Tom Moss said he and Gaurav Mathur saw a huge opportunity to offer companies the flexibility of Android with the kind of security features companies get with BlackBerry and Windows Mobile 6.5.

“This trend of consumerization of IT is really shortsighted,” Moss told Mobilized in an interview on Monday morning. Businesses still want the same things they always have, including high levels of manageability and security. However, the rise of the iPhone and Android with their powerful capabilities have left IT in reactionary mode. “We’re kind of going against the trend but we think it’s the right bet.”

As part of the deal, 3LM will be a wholly owned subsidiary and continue to work with multiple device makers, Moss said. Financial terms were not disclosed. Motorola was one of the companies that 3LM had been working with.

“We didn’t pursue anybody,” he said, noting there were multiple interested parties. “They are the only OEM that is just doing Android, which kind of matches our mojo and our DNA. We really think it is the best platform for enterprise IT.”

As for the acquisition, Moss said he had built a small team that did a lot of product development in a short period of time, but needed to start building up capabilities for sales and support, all of the kinds of things that would have required some sort of financing. “We don’t have to worry abut funding.”

The deal will also help the company get an in with the kind of customers and partners it needs. “It’s hard as a 10-person start-up to be taken seriously, where as if you are Motorola people will at least talk to you.”

Moss said there is a narrow window to shift the trend away from enterprises just “giving up” and allowing all manner of devices onto their network as long as they have secure email. Although that is where things are headed, Moss noted that a lot of businesses still use BlackBerry and even Windows Mobile devices because of their higher security, though clearly that trend is shifting.

“We really want to get that out there before people just give up on security,” he said. “It’s a question of urgency. We wanted to get out there really quick.”

The company, which started last year, has about $1.5 million in seed investment from angel investors and VC firm Accel Partners.

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— Gitesh Pandya of comments on the dreadful opening weekend box office numbers for “The Fifth Estate.”