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2006: Top Ten Startups

Dan Jones
LR Mobile News Analysis
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor

There are some familiar names on our list of hot young companies, as well as some lesser-known mobile companies. These startups, most of which are two years old or younger, cover a diverse array of wireless markets, from wireless LANs to emerging markets like sensor networks and mobile storage.

Enterprise WiFi
Xirrus Inc.

  • Westlake Village, Calif.
  • Founded: 2003
  • Primary Product: A high-capacity, multi-radio WiFi box that can provide up to 1.2 Gbit/s of bandwidth to cover offices and other spaces
  • Funding: Largely self-funded, Xirrus took on an undisclosed amount of VC in January.

    Xirrus Inc. is one of the few startups left in the enterprise WiFi space that is trying to do something outside the standard AP and controller model with a single wireless LAN box intended to provide wide-scale coverage for users.

    Fixed/Mobile Convergence
    DiVitas Networks Inc.

  • Mountain View, Calif.
  • Founded: April 2005
  • Primary Product: Fixed/mobile management systems
  • Funding: $23 million

    DiVitas Networks Inc. is focusing its attention on delivering control of fixed/mobile convergence to the enterprise user rather than the carrier. The firm has already established an impressive array of partners with Symbol Technologies Inc. (NYSE: SBL) and -- supposedly -- Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) working with the startup.

    Mobile Email
    Zimbra Inc.
  • San Mateo, Calif.
  • Founded: Late 2003
  • Primary Product: An open-source mobile messaging package that works with some of the latest smartphones -- such as the Motorola Q -- as well as established email devices like the RIM BlackBerry
  • Funding: $16 million

    Zimbra Inc. is betting that open source will be the new wave in mobile email in 2007 and beyond. Mesh Networking
    Meraki Networks Inc.

  • Mountain View, Calif.
  • Founded: April 2006
  • Primary Product: WiFi mesh gear
  • Funding: Undisclosed amount from Google and Silicon Valley angel investors, likely under $5 million

    Initially spun off from the RoofNet group at MIT "with the hopes of bringing free or low-cost Internet access to people around the world," Meraki Networks Inc. made headlines late this year with its work with Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) to improve indoor WiFi mesh coverage at the search giant's municipal WiFi testbed in Mountain View.

    Mobile Security
    Network Chemistry Inc.
  • Menlo Park, Calif.
  • Founded: 2002
  • Primary Product: IDS and mobile security software for WiFi and Bluetooth networks
  • Funding: $25 million

    Intrusion detection firm Network Chemistry Inc. is one of a select number of tech firms that can claim to be backed by the CIA. The investment arm of the U.S. agency contributed toward the startup's $6 million first round in funding.

    Wireless Chips
    Sequans Communications

  • Paris, France
  • Founded: September 2003
  • Primary Product: One of the first system-on-chip mobile WiMax chipsets
  • Funding: $35 million, plus an undisclosed investment from Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT)

    Sequans Communications focuses on the smaller end of the mobile WiMax chip market developing silicon for mobile WiMax in handsets, base stations, and customer premise equipment.

    Reva Systems Corp.

  • Chelmsford, Mass.
  • Founded: 2004
  • Primary Product: Tag acquisition network architecture and processor systems
  • Funding: $10 million

    Reva Systems Corp. is trying to do for standalone RFID readers what the wireless LAN switch startups have started to achieve in the WiFi market -- prove that these devices can be centrally managed.

    Mobile Storage
    RingCube Technologies Inc.

  • Mountain View, Calif.
  • Founded: 2004
  • Primary Product: Software that can be downloaded to a USB drive and used to secure files so they can be safely viewed on any desktop
  • Funding: $4 million

    RingCube Technologies Inc. promises to allow the user to access corporate office files securely at any time simply by inserting the USB drive into a workstation. Mobile Payments

  • Mumbai, India
  • Founded: 2006
  • Primary Product: A system that enables mobile payments via phone text messages (SMS)
  • Funding: $5 million-plus

    Paymate is hoping that the subcontinent will be the next boom market for mobile payments.

    Sensor Networks
    Tendril Networks Inc.

  • Boulder, Colo.
  • Founded: 2004
  • Primary Product: Technology that can find and manage sensors on automated wireless control networks
  • Funding: $6 million-plus

    Wireless Sensor and Control Networks (WSCN) startup Tendril Networks is working on Zigbee short-range wireless systems to make it easier to wirelessly control automated tasks such as regulating the temperature of a warehouse and other applications that require constant monitoring.

    Wireless in the Home
    Ruckus Wireless Inc.

  • Sunnyvale, Calif.
  • Founded: June 2004 as Video54
  • Primary Product: Proprietary MIMO (multiple-input, multiple-output) antenna boxes to speed up video streaming over 802.11g for carrier partners
  • Funding: $30 million

    2007 will be an interesting year for Ruckus Wireless Inc. (NYSE: RKUS) as 802.11n technology becomes commercialized, which could help speed the spread of high-speed residential WiFi multimedia streaming networks.

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