Today is a very special day for the entire Veniam Team and our growing community of customers, partners and friends. After our angel seed round in 2013 and venture backed Series A round in 2014, I am delighted to announce that, for our Series B, we are joining forces with Verizon Ventures (lead), Cisco Investments, Orange Digital Ventures, and Yamaha Motors Ventures. We are also proud and deeply grateful to our early investors Om Malik and Rohit Sharma at True Ventures, Brad Burnham at Union Square Ventures and Judith McHale and Brian O’Halloran at Cane, who are increasing their investment today after being the first to support our disruptive approach of looking at vehicles not just as machines that carry people and goods from point A to point B, but rather as active nodes of the Internet and key elements of future city infrastructures.
When we closed our seed round and hired our first three engineers in January 2013, all we had was a solid research record and a few initial hardware and software prototypes, all of which were developed by our exceptionally talented students at Universidade de Aveiro, Universidade do Porto and Instituto de Telecomunicações in Portugal, with funding from the EU and the Portuguese Science Foundation (FCT) through the Carnegie Mellon Portugal program. My colleague Susana Sargento and I had been working for a number of years on connected vehicles and were among the first to actually build a real-world testbed (at the time of about 60 taxis). Several large companies then sent people to Porto to see our work, and that’s when we realised we were on to something that could be more than simply academic research. Although the industry was looking at connected vehicles essentially to increase safety and reduce fatalities, we discovered early on that there was a lot more that one could do with vehicular mesh networks if only we could get a critical mass of vehicles communicating with each other and the Internet in an urban environment.
With every vehicle serving as a WiFi hotspot and an active node of the Internet it is possible not only to expand wireless coverage dramatically and reduce the cost of wireless connectivity, but also to leverage the mesh of connected vehicles as a massive urban scanner and gather valuable physical data for smart city applications. When I first presented these ideas at MIT in late 2011, a former corporate investor Laila Partridge came to me and said: “ You must do two things: 1) start a company and 2) talk with Robin Chase”. At the time, I had no idea who Robin was, so I looked her up. Founder of Zipcar already sounded interesting, but then I found Robin’s 2007 TED talk online in which she defended that every vehicle should be a Wi-Fi hotspot. After a few emails, we met for the first time in Silicon Valley, where I was doing some consulting work for Cisco. After only two hours at Café Venetia in the Palo Alto train station (how cliché is that!), we had a sketch of Veniam’s business plan on a sheet of paper and we decided to start the company together with my colleague Susana and Robin’s husband, Roy Russell, who had been the first CTO of Zipcar.
Fast forward three years, Veniam built and operates the largest vehicular mesh network in the world (currently in operation in Porto, Portugal), wins the Building Global Innovators accelerator of MIT Portugal, and becomes one of the first Portugal born companies to close three rounds of financing with top VC firms and strategic investors in three different continents.
Today, we have a world class team, which includes 28 outstanding engineers in Porto (30% of which with a PhD in wireless networking), excellent support staff, seasoned executives Roy Russell (CTO, co-founder), Maria João Souto (GM Portugal), André Miranda (Operations), and Manuel Simas (Sales), and homegrown rising stars Rui Costa (Director of Product) and André Cardote (Director of Engineering). Veniam’s global footprint ranges from our Silicon Valley headquarters to our newest subsidiary in Singapore, where we will soon be launching a new network of connected vehicles. As we often say, the “sun never sets on Veniam!”.
By partnering with four new strategic investors, which include two major telecom operators and two global equipment manufacturers, Veniam is uniquely positioned to meet the challenges of a fast scale-up and become the networking platform of choice for connected transportation and smart cities worldwide. We are tremendously excited to continue our journey with our new partners Ed Ruth and Roy Chestnutt at Verizon Ventures, Amit Chaturvedy and Nate D’Anna at Cisco Investments, Olawale Ayeni at Orange Digital and Jay Onda at Yamaha Motors. This milestone indeed marks a very important step towards realising our dream of delivering the networking fabric for the Internet of Moving Things, thereby helping to improve the connectivity, mobility and quality of life of millions of people worldwide.
On a personal note, I feel incredibly fortunate to be given this opportunity, after enjoying a very rewarding career as a university professor. Leading Veniam to new heights has become my number one mission, not only because Veniam is delivering cutting-edge technology and innovative solutions that help make the world a better and safer place, but also because we are building a company in which very bright and sincere people can grow their talents, stay true to themselves and be kind to one another. Last but not least, I am blessed with the most thoughtful and caring wife, Ana, and three smart and charming young boys, all of whom share the Veniam dream and are always there for me through the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life.
What more can one possibly want!