By RICK SMITH, Local Tech Wire editor

DURHAM, N.C. – Capitalizing on the explosion in smartphone usage worldwide, privately held has closed on $15 million in new venture funding.

The company, launched by Triangle entrepreneur Jud Bowman as a spinoff from mobile phone services firm Motricity, landed three high-profile investors in the new round.

Trident Ventures led the round.

Also participating is Tomorrow Ventures, the investment fund operated by Google Chief Executive Officer Eric Schmidt.

BlackBerry Partners Fund, the investment arm of smartphone manufacturer Research In Motion which is establishing a research and development operation in RTP, also participated.

Bowman’s venture focuses on working globally with application ("apps") developers who write and sell programs for use on smartphones. It also works with phone manufacturers and mobile operators in an apps market that is expected to generate some $13 billion by 2013.

PocketGear plans to add staff to its current headcount of some 40 employees. Half of those are based in Durham. PocketGear also maintains an office in Texas and Germany.

The company plans to make additional hires in sales and product development, a PocketGreat executive told LTW. Sales offices also will be opened in additional markets.

Local Tech Wire reported in June that PocketGear had raised some $12 million as part of the new round.

The final raise of $15 million is being announced Monday.

“The mobile application marketplace is exploding and we are very excited about the opportunity o use this funding to help our expanding network of service provider, OEM [original equipment manufacturers] and media company partners efficiently bring new revenue generating services and devices to market more quickly and easily,” Bowman said in announcing the deal.

“As we power more app stores for our partners, PocketGear provides an even more powerful distribution channel for our network of developers,” he added.

Launched in June 2008 as a spinoff from mobile content services firm Motricity, PocketGear is backed by local venture capital firms Wakefield Group and Noro-Moseley Partners.

PocketGear had already touted itself as the “world’s largest mobile app store” with more than 100,000 applications and digital media titles available beforeacquiring Texas-based Handango earlier this year.

App stores already available include one for Android applications as PocketGear moved quickly to capitalize on the core operating system developed by Google. Other stores focus on popular operating systems to support Palm, BlackBerry (Research In Motion) and Symbian devices.

The storefront list:


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