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Storage firm Drobo gets mysterious cash injection

Ten million greenbacks for what exactly?

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Drobo, the supplier of stylish 4- or 8-bay add your own drives external storage boxes, has raised $10m in an E-round funding exercise.

Quite why is not obvious, since the company is shipping product like a tropical storm. It had 100 per cent worldwide sales growth in the second quarter of 2008, and has had double-digit growth in every 2009 quarter so far. In July we were told that more than 75,000 Drobos had been installed.

In September last year it raised $15m in its fourth funding round, adding to the $28m it had raised in three previous rounds. Total funding is now $53m.

Just when people were thinking of a possible IPO, along comes a fifth funding round. Isn't Drobo profitable? Isn't it self-funding? Presumably not. Existing venture capital investors piled in together with a new one, Focus Ventures, so they're all confident about pumping in more cash.

We're told that "Data Robotics will use this investment to accelerate research and development programs and expand global sales and marketing initiatives." The firm's CEO and founder, Dr. Geoff Barrall, who founded NAS supplier BlueArc, talked of "continued growth in current markets while rapidly expanding our reach into new opportunities."

It looks like the $10m will be used to accelerate development of the product and grow Drobo's sales side. The company must be thinking it needs to accelerate its growth and can't wait to fund the developments needed from revenue.

Competition in the desktop SME backup-to-disk market is hotting up: witness Iomega's StorCenter ix4-200d, a pre-loaded, 4-drive iSCSI and NAS box. Western Digital and Seagate are also expanding their desktop external disk storage offerings for consumers and SMEs, and there are products available from Buffalo, LaCie and others.

A potential expansion direction is to make a rackmount Drobo, although that would be a step away from its design centre of gravity. A development within this design area would be to downsize to 2.5-inch drives. ®

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