M87 is a technology company that develops software to connect mobile devices to each other and boost wireless connections. If one device has a weaker connection, it can use the stronger network of a nearby device, without affecting the stronger device's network use. In doing so, M87 helps bring connectivity to devices with poor reception, such as a phone far away from windows, by allowing it to piggyback onto the network of a device in the same room that is near the window, for example. In doing so, M87 software not only benefits the end user, but also expands network capacity without the need for additional infrastructure. The company says that having devices share bandwidth can boost download speeds by 50 percent or more. The company’s name, M87, refers to one of the largest galaxies in our universe, Messier 87, which is one of the brightest sources of radio waves.
Zirra Rated M87
Business & Marketing Strategy: M87 is currently undergoing major changes, having recently added a new CEO and moved former CEO David Hampton to COO. It will be worth monitoring what direction new CEO Cole Brodman takes the company, and how well the team will function with the former CEO still around but no longer in charge. In addition, the company has announced plans to move from Texas to Seattle, and to double their staff.
Competitive Position: M87’s most direct competitor that we found is Open Garden, which also develops mesh network technology for sharing of internet connections between mobile devices. Unlike M87, which licenses their technology to mobile service providers, Open Garden offers consumer products including FireChat, a messaging app that allows users to communicate even without an internet connection. Open Garden is based in San Francisco, and has raised $12.8M in funding. Other indirect competitors that deal with data networks or internet sharing include Transit Wireless, which has procured a 28-year contract with the MTA to bring connectivity to New York City’s subway system, and Open-Mesh, which develops wireless mesh networks for sharing internet connectivity similar to M87, but for wi-fi rather than mobile data.
Founder & Executive Profiles: M87’s product is based on Co-Founder Vidur Bhargava’s doctoral research along with Dr. Sriram Vishwanath at the University of Texas. Vishwanath remains on the company’s advisory board. David Hampton joined the company as CEO, and served in that role until he was relegated in 2016 to COO by the appointment of board member Cole Bordman as CEO. Brodman was previously CTO of T-Mobile, helping to build the company from pre-launch phase to full commercial operations and scaling to $20B in annual revenue with over 30M customers.
Investor Positions: M87’s funding comes from backers including 21ViaNet, Qualcomm Ventures, and Madrona Venture Group. Chinese Internet Giant 21ViaNet has used M87 technology in their cell phone network in Hong Kong to boost connection speeds. Qualcomm is a leading mobile chip company that designs, manufactures, and markets digital wireless telecommunications products and services, making clear their interest in a company like M87. Madrona Venture Group is a Seattle-based firm that specializes in early stage investments, especially in information technology, and is very focused on the Pacific Northwest region, which in general is considered to be a strong region for telecom.
Market Forecast & Exit Indicators: The number of mobile internet users worldwide has been estimated to top 2 billion in 2016, and data usage is increasing rapidly. Mobile telephone operators have made acquisitions worth billions, and this is a possible outcome for M87, which develops technology for use by phone carriers. It is a possibility that one of the industry leaders such as Sprint, Verizon, or Deutsche Telekom might decide to acquire M87 in order to keep its technology from their competitors. M87’s technology has been used so far in Hong Kong by 21ViaNet, and is said to be being evaluated for use by two major US carriers.