Austin software maker M87 raises $3 million for growth
Jun 12, 2014
Austin American Statesman
If you’re using your cell phone in the middle of an office building, your connection probably won’t be as good as that of a co-worker sitting by a window.
But what if your smartphone could link with your co-worker’s phone for faster service?
Austin startup M87 Inc. says it has come up with software that makes that possible.
Now M87 has raised $3 million from two major telecom players to build out and launch its software product. Investors in the deal were 21Vianet, a leading Internet data center services provider in China, and Qualcomm Ventures, the venture capital arm of Qualcomm Inc.
The company previously received $1.5 million from backers including the UT Horizon Fund, which is the strategic venture fund of the University of Texas System, and individual telecom industry investors.
M87’s technology was invented at the wireless engineering department at the University of Texas, and M87 was formed to commercialize it.
Founded in 2010, M87 develops software that enhances connection speeds on smartphones by automatically routing to faster data paths. Its software searches for nearby cellular devices that have stronger signals, allowing a user’s device to match the connection speed of the faster device.
The software is embedded in a smartphone’s operating system. Because users are sharing their cellular connection and not their service plan, it doesn’t affect data usage or allow access to another phone owner’s data.
The company is targeting mobile carriers, which M87 says would benefit by seeing an increase in the speed and overall capacity of their mobile networks.
“We are big believers in the way device-to-device connectivity can improve the performance of cellular networks for our customers,” Frank Meng, president of 21Vianet, said in a written statement. “We look forward to deploying M87’s technology in our initial wireless service offering in Hong Kong.”
M87 said it currently is running software trials with major U.S. carriers. Its first software deployment is scheduled in Hong Kong in the second part of the year, followed by a carrier in the Middle East.
The 15-person company, which has offices at Seventh and Brazos streets downtown, is led by CEO David Hampton, who previously held executive positions including vice president of mergers and acquisitions for Wayport Inc., a Wi-Fi services company that was acquired AT&T Inc. in 2008 for $275 million.