A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: SNAPin.

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What: Bellevue-based SNAPin


Who: Chief Executive Bob Lewis, formerly of AT&T Wireless until it was purchased by Cingular Wireless in 2004. Lewis was responsible for managing AT&T Wireless’ minority interests outside the United States, which totaled $3 billion in 2000.


Timeline: Founded by Brian Roundtree, now chief technology officer, in June 2003.


What it does: Builds software to provide self-service functions on cellphones.


The problem: As cellphones and networks get more complicated, phones become more like PCs, making them harder to use. One solution is to make them simpler. “That’s not going to happen. We aren’t going to go backwards,” Lewis said.


In a snap: The software has four components: teach, support, maintain and measure.


Teach: In the first offering, subscribers learn to use features and services on their phones through little bubbles, much in the way Microsoft Word recognizes that you might be writing a letter and need help. In wireless, it might mean instructions on how to send someone a photo.


Support: Intercepts calls to customer care. When a user dials 611, the screen displays a list that answers most commonly asked questions. Lewis said it is not uncommon for more than 35 percent of a carrier’s customer base to make a “help” call every month.


Maintain: Customer care can run diagnostics remotely to see whether a problem is a user or network error.


Measure: Allows carriers to see how often features and services are used. The phones can also report network problems from the subscriber’s perspective. Example: A newly built skyscraper blocks a cellphone tower’s coverage area. If devices report dropped calls there, the carrier could remedy the problem before subscribers report it.


Sales: SNAPin started to market the software at the end of 2004. So far, it has paid trials under way and expects to announce a customer by year end.


Under the hood: The company has raised two rounds of capital, but declines to disclose details. Investors include Frazier Technology Ventures, Oak Investment Partners and Hunt Ventures. It has about 20 employees and is hiring about one to three every month.


— Tricia Duryee