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

July 9, 2013 at 10:33 AM

Gates-backed antenna venture raises $50 million

Bill Gates and other investors upped their stake in Redmond-based Kymeta, providing $50 million to advance its business of developing cutting-edge antenna systems.

Kymeta is less than a year old. Last August it was spun out of Intellectual Ventures, the Bellevue patent licensing business in which Gates is also a major investor.

“Kymeta is now positioned to move from our period of technology refinement into the product development stage, leading to the commercial launch of our game-changing solutions,” Chief Executive Vern Fotheringham said in the release.

The company is already generating revenue from services it’s providing to partner companies. With the funding in hand, it expects to be making money from Kymeta-branded antenna products in early 2015.

The $50 million financing round came from Kymeta’s existing investors — Gates, Lux Capital and Liberty Global — plus new investors Osage University Partners and the Kresge Foundation.

Open-and-Closed-PST-web

Kymeta is developing satellite broadband antenna systems using metamaterials that steer antenna beams without moving parts, so they can be made thinner and lighter. The company is developing versions for airplanes, road-going vehicles and laptop computers (shown at left).

Kymeta also disclosed today that it has begun signing deals with major customers.

“In just the past few months, Kymeta has entered into commercial development agreements with several of the satellite industry’s leading service providers and we’re really only getting started,” Josh Wolfe, Kymeta board member and managing partner at Lux Capital, said in the release.

Partners include London-based Inmarsat, which is working with Kymeta on ways to provide broadband service on business jets and general aviation planes.

The company also disclosed that it’s adjusting its leadership team. Bob McCambridge is now president and chief operating officer, co-founder Nathan Kundtz is executive vice president and chief technology officer, and John Schilling is executive vice president and chief financial officer.

McCambridge said the funding will help the company nearly double in size locally. He expects to employ 110 by the end of 2014, up from 57 currently. It’s been drawing from the large pool of wireless expertise in the area, hiring veterans of T-Mobile, Clearwire, AT&T and Teledesic.

“There’s talent here in the Northwest that we think is unequaled anywhere in the world,” he said.

Kymeta is also on track to go public but McCambridge declined to provide a timetable.

“We’re certainly doing everything in terms of organizing the company in preparation to become a public company,” he said.

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