Redmond-based-Inrix has raised its initial round of capital to help sell prediction software alerting drivers to potential traffic gridlock...

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Redmond-based-Inrix has raised its initial round of capital to help sell prediction software alerting drivers to potential traffic gridlock up to days in advance.

The company received $6.1 million in the first round, the largest amount a Washington software company has obtained at that stage in almost two years. But Inrix has another first, as well.

It is the first startup to license technology developed in-house by Microsoft’s research division.

Microsoft, which licenses technology to larger, established companies, intends to increase the startup practice over the next year, with more than a dozen technologies already earmarked that could support standalone companies, said David Kaefer, director of business development for Microsoft’s intellectual-property licensing group.

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Kaefer said Microsoft sees benefits to licensing its intellectual property to startups. Beyond revenue from royalties, it can win non-monetary awards such as having more companies that want to develop for the Microsoft platform.

It also sees value in building regional economic activity, as Xerox and other companies have done with well-known research operations.


Inrix



Provider of real-time, nationwide, predictive traffic information.

Headquarters: Redmond

Management: Chief Executive Bryan Mistele and Chief Technology Officer Craig Chapman, both former Microsoft executives, and Vice President of Operations Seth Eisner, formerly of Expedia.

Driving success: Americans spend more than 4.5 billion hours in traffic each year and $625 a year in time and fuel.

Technology: Licensing technology created by Microsoft Research.

Employees: Fewer than a dozen, but expects to hire aggressively in marketing, sales, development and operations.


“Intel and Cisco are building ecosystems of startups. Microsoft is making a concerted effort to do just that,” Kaefer said.

Inrix is an example of how the process can happen.

Ten months ago, Inrix Chief Executive Bryan Mistele left Microsoft to start a company.

As a former executive in Microsoft’s automotive group and mobile operations, he decided his company would revolve around traffic.

Shortly after leaving, Mistele learned from a friend at Microsoft Research about a technology it had been working on that predicts and gives real-time traffic information nationwide.

Kaefer said it was an ideal fit.

“It has incredible commercial promise, but at Microsoft it would collect dust and be nothing more than an interesting project a few researchers worked on,” he said.

Mistele said he was easily able to obtain financing to launch Inrix. Investors include August Capital and Venrock Associates.

The technology helps commuters answer questions such as what time traffic will back up and clear up; the time you should leave work; when a traffic accident will clear; or even the fastest route from the airport to the hotel three weeks from now.

It does this by using predictive software loaded with data such as dates of University of Washington Husky games, Mariners games, school holidays and more.

Currently, 3,000 pilot customers are using it in Seattle; it’s expected to launch officially in the next three months.

To start, the information would be delivered to mobile phones, then through other sources, including Web sites that supply navigation and driving directions.

“There’s an advantage for us in working with Microsoft,” Mistele said. “It accelerates our business. In 90 days we go live. We are a bit ahead of the curve, which allows us to grow much quicker.”

Tricia Duryee: 206-464-3283 or tduryee@seattletimes.com