Zipit Wireless, a startup seeking to capitalize on the instant-messaging craze, has closed on $4.5 million in Series A funding.

The company plans to use the funds to expand its sales and marketing efforts, to develop new products and to hire additional development and professional services staff. Zipit plans a nationwide marketing campaign.

Surveys have reported that 75 percent or more of American teenages use instant messaging, and Zipit targets that growing audience.

ZipIt’s lead produce is the Zipit Wireless Messenger, a portable instant-messaging device that utilizes Wireless Fidelity (WiFi) or “hot spot” technology. According to the company, the Zipit is the only WiFi-enabled device that offers instant messaging.

Windspeed Ventures, SunBridge Partners, Meritus Ventures and SC Launch! participated in the funding.

The investment for Meritus Ventures was its first. Meritus, which has a $36 million fund, calls itself a rural business investment company. It has offices in Kentucky and Tennessee.

SC Launch! Is part of SCRA, a provider of applied research and commercialization services with offices in Anderson, Charleston and Columbia, S.C.

“For more than eight years, we have researched devices and companies providing messaging on the go, but until now none have combined the ease of use with the freedom from monthly charges the way Zipit has,” Paul Grim, general partner of SunBridge Partners, said in a statement.

“Zipit is a game-changing solution to the problem of managing social connectivity, be it pure instant messaging or keeping up with one’s social networks,” he added. “We believe that Zipit offers consumers a unique communications product, free from the restrictions, long-term contracts and fees typical of today’s wireless industry. We are excited about Zipit’s future and look forward to helping them achieve their vision.”

The company launched Zipit in 2004.

“This funding marks an important stage in the evolution of our company,” said Frank Greer, president of Zipit. “We believe consumers want and deserve a better experience in how they communicate and Zipit will make that experience a reality.

“Our new products will provide a more effective way for teens to connect with each other, while providing parents with the reassurance that they won’t be burdened by hidden charges or have to worry about online safety,” he added.

Meritus is focused on ventures in southern Appalachia.

“As the first investment for Meritus Ventures, Zipit Wireless Inc. is representative of the deals we are able to find in rural southern Appalachia and serves to validate the premise of Meritus as a Rural Business Investment Company (RBIC),” said Grady Vanderhoofven, the Meritus fund manager.

“Most traditional venture investors don’t look for deals in this region, but we found a capable and experienced management team, with an impressive product platform, in a dynamic and rapidly growing market, sitting on the fringe of rural southern Appalachia,” he added.