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Brier Dudley's blog

Brier Dudley offers a critical look at technology and business issues affecting the Northwest.

August 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Bill Gates backing Redmond antenna startup

Funding shouldn’t be a challenge for Kymeta, a new Redmond startup developing exotic antennas for satellite broadband receivers.

Kymeta surfaced today with an initial $12 million from investor Bill Gates, Lux Capital and media and communications giant Liberty Global.

The company has quietly built up a team of 15 and plans to add 75 more over the next year.

Kymeta is the second company to be spun out of Intellectual Ventures, the Bellevue patent and research venture led by former Microsoft research boss Nathan Myhrvold. Intellectual Ventures has raised at least $5 billion from Gates and other investors.

Most of Intellectual Ventures business is hoarding and licensing patents to companies, collecting what are basically insurance payments to protect the companies from patent lawsuits.

mtenna_product.png

Intellectual Ventures also employs about 100 researchers who develop original ideas. This led to the spinoff of a nuclear reactor company called TerraPower in 2008 — and to Kymeta.

Kymeta is developing antennas made with artificial “metamaterials” that can manipulate electromagnetic radiation, the company said in its release. This enables its “mTenna” system to “electronically point and steer a radio signal toward a satellite.”

Kymeta plans to use the technology in laptop-sized “hotspot” antenna systems, such as the prototype pictured here. They are intended to be used for satellite broadband service, providing fast connections of 1 to 5 Megabits per second from boats, cars and planes. Customers could include governments and individuals who can afford satellite broadband.

The company intends to begin selling its antennas in 2015. It has yet to line up any customers or partners providing satellite broadband services.

Kymeta’s chief executive is Vern Fotheringham, a veteran of numerous advanced wireless ventures, including Terabeam.

“The disruptive form factor, performance and cost advantages of Kymeta’s mTenna products, based on advanced metamaterials technologies, will enable users to access a wide variety of mobile, portable and fixed satellite services beyond the capabilities of existing antenna solutions,” Fotheringham said in the release.

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