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Strix Strikes $12M to Make Mesh

Mesh player Strix Systems Inc. has announced that it has scored $12 million in a new round of funding that the startup expects will take it to profitability.

The round was led by new investor Crosslink Capital, and Bruce MacNaughton -- a partner at Crosslink -- is now on the board of directors. The startup's previous investors also joined the round, which brings its total VC funding to $54 million.

The new funding comes just as interest in the metro-mesh hits fever pitch, with (Nasdaq: CSCO) expected to announce its first products this week. (See Cisco Plots Mesh.) Even telecom bubble survivor Nan Chen, who recently signed on as the VP of marketing at Strix, professes surprise at how quickly the firm managed to close the round. (See Chen's Outta Atrica.)

"It says a lot about the market itself as well as our technology," says Chen.

The company plans to spend this new moolah on bulking up its sales, marketing, and engineering teams. "We feel that this money will take us to profitability," says Cyrus Irani, vice president of strategy and advanced development at Strix.

Strix has certainly been gunning for a higher profile in the hot citywide wireless LAN market of late. The firm started as a pure enterprise mesh play in 2000, but added dedicated outdoor units this March in a bid to break into the metro-mesh space. (See Mesh Springs Into Life.)

For those of you that have been living under a rock for the last six months, metro-mesh is being promoted by its many boosters as a fast, cheap, and efficient way to provide broadband wireless connectivity for citizens, public safety officials, and municipal workers in cities around the world.

Unlike typical WiFi hotspot deployments, wireless mesh systems don't require point-to-point connections between the wired network and 802.11 access points. In fact, Mesh is much more like a team sport, where each wireless node receives and routes data to other radios across the network. In theory at least, this should make these networks easier and cheaper to install because they require just a few connections back to the wired network.

Strix's biggest competitors in the metro-mesh market at the moment are startups like BelAir Networks Inc. and Tropos Networks, which claims over 250 customers. But this could change very soon as Cisco enters the market and incumbents like Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) and (NYSE/Toronto: NT) ramp up their mesh-aging.

Strix has always been lauded by analysts for its modular, multi-radio WiFi mesh capabilities, and this appears to be one area where the company will try and keep abreast of larger competitors. Strix recently announced that it will start to add WiMax (802.16) radios to upgrade its backhaul capabilities as standardized products become available. (See Strix Has WiMax Plans.)

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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