Intel Puts $22M In 10 Startups, With A Stake In FreedomPop To Launch A Rival …

3 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FreedomPop snares Intel investment, plans for Intel-powered Wi-Fi device.

Intel Capital, the venture arm of the tech giant, today announced $22 million in new investments across 10 startups. FreedomPop, the network that provides both free and low-cost mobile connectivity, has announced it’ll launch a Wi-Fi smartphone next year, which will use Intel’s new Atom x3 processor known as SoFIA.Mobile virtual network operator FreedomPop said it scored an undisclosed amount of funding from Intel Capital that it plans to use to expand its smartphone portfolio, including the launch next year of a Wi-Fi first model using Intel’s Sofia platform. FreedomPop claims the Wi-Fi first smartphone will be “very competitively priced” and include support for seamless Wi-Fi to cellular handoffs, the ability to vary network speeds at the device level and provide for “high quality” voice over Internet Protocol calls.

This Los Angeles-based mobile phone and wireless internet provider aims to provide quality text, data, and voice services to those who want an alternative to the top mobile carriers in the country. FreedomPop currently offers a handful of legacy smartphones, including the Samsung Victory, Galaxy S4, SIII and SII, and a couple of mobile hot spot devices. As a point of comparison, during the same event last year, Intel announced $67 million of investments in 16 startups, but said that 2014 investments totalled $359 million.

The MVNO in July announced $10 million in funding from telecom operator Axiata Group, which serves more than 230 million customers across Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Singapore, Cambodia and Sri Lanka. The company has been hoping that a new generation of chips, known as Sofia, will improve its position. “It may mean more to Intel than it does to FreedomPop in some respects,” FreedomPop CEO Stephen Stokols said in a telephone interview. “We are going to showcase their technology more than they could on their own, for sure.” Stokols said the move ended up being more appealing to his company than trying to work on its own to get a phone built specifically for the startup. Today’s investments cover a range of companies running from later stages in larger and more established startups through to newer companies and emerging technologies, and come from five countries: China, Israel, Taiwan, the UK, and the U.S. FreedomPop announced in June it scored $30 million in series B funding from new investor Partech Ventures and existing investors DCM Capital and Mangrove Capital.

FreedomPop will have some exclusivity with regard to certain markets, Stokols said, but the phone will also be sold in other countries where the carrier doesn’t do business. Intel is not disclosing the value of any individual stake today: FreedomPop, a provider of “free” wireless voice and data services that makes its money on value-added options like voicemail, extra data allowances and so on. The idea is to design a true blue WiFi smartphone that will allow users to benefit from a more cost-effective network, saving on bills on data and cellular bills. Service from FreedomPop is currently offered in the U.S., using Sprint’s network, and in the United Kingdom, through a partnership with European carrier Three.

LISNR, maker of Smart Tones, a “protocol that sends data over audio using a high-frequency, inaudible technology” that turns speakers and other media into beacons. Intel’s Platform Engineering Group VP and Gneral Manager of Phones at Intel Corp Sam Spangler said, “We look forward to working jointly with FreedomPop in improving the customer’s Wi-Fi first experience via this new smartphone utilizing FreedomPop’s Wi-Fi network”. Details of the phone itself are being tightly held by the Intel and FreedomPop, though Stokols described it as aiming to pack as much technology as possible into a device that can sell for less than $200. Body Labs for collecting, digitizing and organizing data and information related to human body shape, pose and motion. “Its mission is to transform the human body into a digital platform upon and around which goods and services can be designed, produced, bought and sold.” (Not at all creepy!) Microprogram Information, an Internet of Things startup that provides turnkey hardware and software solutions and backend information management services for transportation services like rental bicycles, taxi fleets and mobile point-of-sale systems. Perfant Technology, out of China, develops imaging and video technologies for artificial intelligence, machine vision, 3-D reconstruction and virtual reality.

Intel’s partnering with FreedomPop for the Wi-Fi phone’s launch, and the chip giant has invested an unspecified amount in FreedomPop’s business. Chargifi is a wireless charging network, billed as “power as a platform.” It offers this in a series of “Chargifi Spots” across public locations. KMLabs, a maker of laser systems for research and industrial applications, including multi-photon imaging, spectroscopy, OCT, THz-generation, CEP, micro-machining and attosecond, coherent soft X-Ray and EUV pulse generation as well as a “tabletop x-ray laser” light source. The company, which has offices in Tel Aviv, Boston, California and Seattle, was founded in 2014 by renowned entrepreneurs with backgrounds in distributed computing, system programming, machine learning and mathematical statistics. *Intel also announced that it has invested in Parallel Machines, a predictive analytics and machine learning startup, but it seems that it’s not counted in the $22 million/10 startup total.

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