I'm excited to share that goTenna, a Brooklyn Bridge Ventures portfolio company, has launched the presale of its point to point communications device.
Have you ever texted anyone in the same room and thought about the infrastructure behind it--about where that message travels to, the great distances it gets bounced around, all to travel ten feet, in just milliseconds.
It's pretty magical.
It's also pretty stupid, technically speaking.
When you can literally see someone else's phone, even a three year old would suggest that the message should go from point A to point B on a pretty straight line.
There's a lot of other things about telecommunications that a three year old would probably agree with--that no one should ever be able to read your message, except the person who sent it to you.
And if you go on a remote camping trip and one of you gets lost on your way to the hole in the ground behind a tree, you should be able to contact each other if you both have phones.
These situations--the lack of coverage in emergencies, the need for privacy, and the ability to offload point to point communications--make goTenna a pretty handy device to have around. It is a small piece of hardware that syncs up with your phone, freeing it from the carrier network and enabling point to point communication.
But handy isn't why I backed it. Handy is the first step to gamechanging.
I met Daniela Perdomo over a year ago at SXSW. I was scanning the SXSWSocial network for anyone that had tagged themselves "Brooklyn". Daniela's profile came up and I noticed that she was involved with NYC Resistor, the hardware hackerspace that Makerbot came out of. I tweeted at her in response to a post about cheese.
@danielaperdomo That is serious! BTW... Putting together a little dinner of folks Sun night. Would love to meet a Bklyn maker/Resistor.— Charlie O'Donnell (@ceonyc) March 9, 2013
We agreed to meet up and she told me what she was working on. I had no idea she was a founder with a startup. I just wanted to meet the hardware hackers from Brooklyn. When she told me she was working with her brother Jorge on disconnecting phones from the network, and reconnecting them directly to each other, I was intrigued. We met back in NYC and after another meeting, I agreed to give her terms and lead the seed round.
Fundraising wasn't an easy road. She pounded the pavement for months looking for other investors who also wanted to take a shot at a first time founder team on a towercutting project. To get there on goTenna, you had to believe in the near term usefulness of the device, but also be excited enough about the possibilities around mesh networks. You have to understand how decentralizing the system makes it more resillient. No longer should anyone in a city as dense as NYC should ever go without the ability to communicate with their phones in an emergency--not when the nearest device to you is likely within a mile of you.
Whether she got better at pitching or the tides turned in the hardware space in general, I'm excited that some investors eventually did step up--and when they did, the seed round became oversubscribed, totalling $1.8 million. It's been great to work with Karin at Bloomberg Beta, Alberto at Collaborative Fund, and Brett from MentorTech, and to have supporters like A16Z and NY Angels. I'm really proud of the work of the people behind the company--Daniela, Jorge, John Levy, who has been with them from the very early days, and their whole tech team.
I'm buying a pair of goTennas because the next time I do the Ragnar running relay, and I roll my ankle at 2AM on the side of a deserted highway, I want to be able to text the van down the road to come see if I'm ok.
I'm investing in goTenna because the grand experiment of untethering from the cellphone tower is a worthwhile one.