RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – In the world of Web 2.0 where new services are making the Internet an even more interactive and usable environment, RTP-based StrikeIron is a pacesetter among providers of Web services.

The company, co-founded by serial entrepreneur Richard Holcomb and Bob Brauer in 2002, recently closed on $5 million in new financing. StrikeIron also landed a new investor, Ascent Venture Partners, in addition to existing investors The Aurora Funds and NC IDEA.

In announcing the new funding, StrikeIron cited projections from analysts in forecasting the market for Web services at $15 billion in 2009 with more than 80 percent of IT projects including Web services and software in service oriented architecture (SOA) tools by 2008. WRAL Local Tech Wire talked with Brauer about the exploding world of Web services and the continuing growth in popularity of SOA.

That’s an amazing statistic on the forecast of how many applications will be web-enabled and/or SOA. Do you believe that forecast?

Yes, we have seen tremendous adoption of applications that are service-enabled or are built on top of existing standards-based Web services, and our success is a leading indicator that this concept is materializing at predicted rates

What are the driving forces for such growth?

SOA is really hitting its stride and will be the dominant architecture for the next generation of IT. Service-driven "Enterprise mashups" are empowering business users to better leverage IT assets and therefore increasing ROI. IT budgets and IT complexity have been increasing at rapid rates and a service-based approach and the ability to re-use IT functionality over the Web created by others can significantly decrease this complexity and cost. It’s the adoption of Web services standards across the industry that make all of this possible.

What is a mashup?

A mashup is an application where the data and/or functionality come from multiple sources and are presented/re-purposed in novel and often unintended yet useful ways.

These are much easier to build when there is a directory of services available to use and build themwith, as in service oriented architecture, or within a catalog of external services such as StrikeIron provides.

Why is StrikeIron well positioned to capitalize on opportunities and thus gain further investments?

We were the first in the industry to deliver a comprehensive platform that enables an ecosystem of service and data providers to be matched with those seeking to consume these services, and to do so in an easy, consistent manner. We have continued this leadership today and continue to add customers, data and service providers, and strategic partners at an exciting rate, further solidifying our position.

What made StrikeIron management believe the time was right to seek more funding?

We had a tremendous amount of growth and momentum in 2006 which enabled us to prove out our business model and attract quality investors. We want to capitalize on this growth and momentum, and in our leadership position in the industry, increase our visibility, continue to invest in our technology, continue our pace of innovation, and increase our strategic partnerships. The timing was right for all of these things.

We tripled our customer base in 2006, doubled the number of data sources and services available and enjoyed 10x revenue growth in 2006.

You secured a new investor with a great deal of money under management. What factors influenced a much larger VC fund to invest in you at this point? How did you make contact with the new investor?

Our growth in 2006, our reputation in the industry as an innovator and technology leader, a solid track record of customer success, and an experienced management team with significant background in the industry were all factors in attracting these kinds of investors.

Was there competition for the round? Did others want in?

Yes, we had significant interest from many investors.

How does StrikeIron plan to spend the new funding?

Expand sales and marketing initiatives, accelerate platform and product development efforts, and further strategic partner programs. The company will also continue to build on the market success of the StrikeIron Web Services Marketplace, which has been adopted by thousands of users and a broad range of institutions and enterprises

Do you plan to increase headcount? If so, how many and in what areas?

Yes, in continued technology development and investment, customer support, business development, and increasing our visibility in the industry to attract more strategic partners. Current plans call for hiring 5-10 in the next 6 months.