One of Seattle’s hottest startup companies has scored cash from one of the region’s biggest venture capital firms. Swype, which allows consumers to input text on mobile phones and tablet computers with the “Swype” of a finger, has landed $3.5 million in a deal led by Bellevue-based Ignition Partners.

Swype CEO Mike McSherry tells GeekWire that the $3.5 million is part of a larger financing round which is expected to close in the coming weeks. As touchscreen devices become more ubiquitous, Swype is juggling multiple opportunities to embed its text-input technology on TVs, gaming consoles, car navigation systems and other gadgets.

Swype also has reaped the rewards of not being on the iPhone, since mobile device makers use the Swype keyboard as a point of differentiation against Apple. That’s led to a huge marketing campaign by some partners such as Samsung which tout the text-input system.

McSherry laughed when asked specifically about whether we might see Swype on Apple devices such as the iPad and iPhone (a question he’s accustomed to hearing from me).

“We are having discussions with almost every OEM that you could imagine,” he said.

At a recent event in Seattle, McSherry suggested that one day you could see Swype become a part of next-generation gaming systems such as Microsoft’s Kinect.

Gov. Gregoire gives Swype a try as CEO Mike McSherry looks on (Photo: Alvin Ngan)

“We think Swype works for anything that you would touch, point a remote control at, point a finger or head at and use gestures,” said McSherry.

Prior to the most recent financing, Swype had raised $8 million. Other investors in the company include Benaroya Capital, Nokia, Samsung and Docomo. The company, which now employs 70 people, is growing fast as it adds staffers in development and international operations.

Ignition’s Adrian Smith led the investment, and he’s joining the company as a board observer. Ignition has plenty of experience in the mobile realm, including Smith who formerly worked at McCaw Cellular.

Swype was founded by Cliff Kushler, a Seattle inventor who is best known for co-creating the Tegic T9 text input system.

McSherry declined to comment on whether the company is profitable at this time. “We are doing tremendously well, better than anyone expected,” he said. At this point, the Swype keyboard has been installed on more than 25 million handsets and tablet computers worldwide.

Previously on GeekWire: What’s next for Swype? Old-school ‘tapping’

John Cook is co-founder of GeekWire. Follow on Twitter: @geekwirenews and Facebook.

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  • signinginrain

    good news! good to see sucess in the seattle area.

  • Alok Saboo

    It sounds like a great way to enter text on those small keyboards. I hope Apple stops putting consumer interest at the bottom in their priority list.

    Apple is already being threatened by Android and apps such as these will let the competition get a firm footing in the minds of the consumers. Sooner or later, Apple will have to pay a price for their asinine attitude.

    • Emil

      They don’t put consumer interest in the bottom of their priority list, they put us tech-aware at the bottom. The average buyer is just happy with the current version. But that is mostly because the average buyer doesn’t know better..

    • Watts

      They’re only “threatened” by Android if you treat the smartphone and tablet markets as zero-sum games. I think this is an extremely naive reading of the situation — the vast majority of growth in both markets is from people who don’t own such devices currently. If five years from now there are a billion Android devices and only a quarter-billion iOS devices, do you seriously think development and interest is going to dry up for iOS? “Geez, that market’s only 250 million people. Nobody can make money in that small a crowd!”

      You can snipe at their “asinine attitude” all you want, but they’re awfully successful at what they do. And with all respect, I don’t think they’re really going to be appreciably hurt if they never open up iOS to third-party software keyboard replacements.

      • Alok Saboo

        Yeah….may be I am overreacting (coz I’m not able to get Swype on my iDevice) :-)

        It is not about opening to third party keyboard replacements, it is about the overall closed philosophy. Maybe, it is just the geeks who care about it, but the geeks are the opinion leaders and can have a huge influence on the rest of the population. The tech-history is full of examples where a new entrant has completely dislodged the incumbent (Apple itself is a new entrant in the mobile space), so it would be naive to think that nothing can unsettle Apple from its position.

        Come to think of it, it is impressive to see Android gain so much of market and mind share coming from behind. Google has seized the initiative and it may not be too long before it irons out the kinks and move to the next level.

        Apple has a huge momentum, but Google is not far behind!!!

        • Nate

          While Swype seems like a gift for us Geeks, it presents a learning curve to the average user. Now they have to learn to type in a new way. Instead, the iPhone gives you a more intuitive keyboard that works just like the keyboard that you currently use on your computer. No new methods, no chance of confusion.

          So, what’s good for you is not necessarily good for the general market, It’s not about open and closed. That’s just Android’s marketing.

          • Alok Saboo

            I completely agree with you that many users MAY not want to use Swype or any such application, but why should Apple decide that users CANNOT use these apps. Even today, I know several people who do not like to use the T9 mode, but that does make it less useful for people who like to use it.

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