MORRISVILLE,TapRoot Systems, a software company for “smart phone” and wireless network applications, is gearing up for expansion with $7 million in venture financing.

The Morrisville-based firm, which was launched in 2000, disclosed this morning that it had raised its first venture cash. Hugh Thomas, TapRoot’s president and chief executive officer, tells Local Tech Wire that he has aggressive plans for growth.

“Absolutely,” he says heartily when asked if TapRoot would be hiring. “Right now, we have around 30 people. We plan to go to about 80.”

TapRoot will be looking primarily for software engineers plus some sales and marketing, he adds. The company plans to hire locally. “Our headquarters and only operation is right here,” he says.

Leading the investment is Intersouth Partners of Durham. As part of the deal, Mitch Mumma, a partner at Intersouth, will join TapRoot’s board.

“As everyone who carries a cell phone knows, the evolution is on to one device,” Mumma tells LTW. Noting that more and more smart phones provide voice and data services, such as calendar and email. “People used to have to carry a personal data assistant and a phone. Now, they do not.

“TapRoot plays in that space.”

Mid-Atlantic Venture Funds also joined the round. Peter Krawiec of Mid-Atlantic will join the TapRoot board.

“There’s a lot of industry attention around the move toward smarter phones and the ability to be connected anytime and anywhere,” Krawiec said in a statement. “TapRoot is powering that revolution by providing the underlying software to make it happen.”

Mumma points out that as new phones and applications are developed that someone needs to develop and provide the software that “tweaks” the connection between the two. “TapRoot does that,” he says.

Thomas tells LTW that the company has been seeking money since he joined the firm. Last year, he says one suitor floated the idea of buying TapRoot but the founders “had no plans to go down that path. We decided to build a stronger company on our own.” He said TapRoot’s VC search resumed six months ago.

“TapRoot is attacking a fast-growing market and we have been keen to take advantage of the solid reputation we have developed over the past three years,” Thomas added in a statement announcing the deal. “This funding will help us to expand to meet the increased demand for our products by broadening our software development capabilities and providing the industry with complete software solutions for smart phone platforms.”

TapRoot has strategic partnerships in place with Nokia and Symbian, which is based in the United Kingdom. It was established by a consortium of companies that wanted an alternative to Microsoft products for smart phones.

“TapRoot could have the largest collection of Symbian software engineers outside of the UK,” Mumma says.

The company develops telephone based and wireless networking applications for 802.11 networks. Its “telephony server” software is embedded in the phones, such as the Nokia Series 60 platform. TapRoot also says it develops turnkey design systems for smart phone manufacturers and semiconductor developers.

The company met several criteria for venture investments these days — an experienced management team, customers, revenue and a defensible position in the marketplace, Mumma says. TapRoot also is profitable. “We have been since the start,” says Thomas, who joined the team as CEO in November of 2002.

The company’s management teams includes two former executives with Hatteras Networks. Blane Rockafellow, president and co-founder, worked at Hatteras as well as DEC, Litton American and Raytheon. Andy Smoak, another co-founder from Hatteras, is chief technical officer. He also has worked at Netedge and IBM.

Two other co-founders include John Greene, who worked at Wind River Systems, IBM and Telex, and Leo Ang, who worked at Cisco, Wandel & Gottermann, and Hughes Network Systems. They are software architects at TapRoot.

Before joining TapRoot, Thomas was vice president of marketing at Vitesse Semiconductor, and vice president of marketing and applications at Orologic as well as director of networking at ST Microelectronics.