News & Views

 

M87 – A New Wireless Infrastructure Company Comes to Seattle
AUTHOR: Len Jordan

The wireless infrastructure industry in the Pacific NW has a long history – from McCaw to AT&T Wireless to T-Mobile.  Madrona is very excited to be announcing our investment in M87 which provides better connectivity over existing infrastructure to wireless consumers, infrastructure providers and app developers. This company brings together technology that is crucial as data on our wireless infrastructure increases 50% annually, with a team that is deep on technology and business leadership.  Cole Brodman, who has over 25 years of wireless experience, much of it right here at T-Mobile, is also joining the company today as CEO.  Cole is someone we have worked with over the last several years and we are excited to be backing a company he is behind.

M87’s technology focuses on the edge of the network.  The idea of ‘edge networks’ is not new, early content distribution networks (CDNs) like Akamai started putting edge nodes at internet points of presence in 1998 in order to move content closer to end-users.  We built a related system of audio/video streaming splitters in the same era at RealNetworks to exploit the multiplier effect of shared infrastructure and improve network performance.

Today’s mobile devices offer the ability to move the ‘edge of the network’ all the way to the end-user.   Technologies such as Wifi Direct and LTE, which the majority of the world’s 4B+ mobile phones use, enable end points to redistribute content back into the network.   M87’s technology taps into this ability and liberates an incredible array of new applications around industrial and consumer IoT, messaging and retail, presence awareness and instant connectivity.  Two thirds of all US internet traffic is now mobile.  Outside the US, the dominance of mobile networks, rather than terrestrial based internet, creates even more opportunity to improve networks and applications as emerging markets invest in new ways to expand coverage.

I’m most excited about the team and Seattle story M87 represents.  Vidur Bhargava founded the company based on his research at the University of Texas and he partnered early with David Hampton who has terrific public wifi experience from his leadership of Wayport.  They share Texas roots with M87 CEO Cole Brodman who moved to Seattle 21 years ago as an early product leader for Western Wireless.  As CTO Cole led what became T-Mobile to more than 30M subscribers.  Collectively, the m87 team has an exciting blend of experience and capabilities and we are fortunate that they are moving the company to Seattle.  We will struggle to compete with their famous ‘BBQ’ but let’s welcome them to the world of coffee, a little rain and a great startup ecosystem.

And as a note the company’s name, M87, refers to one of the largest galaxies in our universe, Messier 87 that is one of the brightest sources of radio waves.