Willner and fellow Insight Communications founder Sidney Knafel have taken a controlling stake in Penthera Partners Inc. , a startup that's developed technology that accelerates the transferring of large files, including video, to smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. Willner is now CEO and Knafel is chairman of the Pittsburgh-based company, which was founded in 2007 and has about a dozen employees.
Willner tells Light Reading Cable that he came across Penthera when a mutual friend invited him to meet its CTO, Adam Berger, to help the company get a firmer understanding of the cable industry. Willner, who was in the process of figuring out his next move, ended up liking the company enough not just to invest in it, but to run it, too.
"I never really felt that the sale of Insight was the moment where I would just ride off into the sunset; it's not my nature," Willner says.
Although cable's not Penthera's sole focus, he thinks the company is well-positioned to be at the "forefront of next-generation video consumption" on all sorts of devices.
Penthera's core technology is a software engine that moves large files efficiently to a wide array of devices. Penthera has done some work with Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), and counts High Tech Computer Corp. (HTC) (Taiwan: 2498) as a licensee. At The Cable Show in May, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) used Penthera's software to power a video-sharing application in a new IP-capable set-top. (See The Cable Show 2012: Comcast Flies the X1, Comcast's X1 Video Platform Lands First in Boston and Comcast's Set-Top Accelerator Gains Traction .)
Willner said he was attracted to the company in part because he found that its apps and software can be easily integrated with cable's next-gen platforms.
While Penthera will focus mostly on business-to-business deals, it's already launched a consumer product. Its Ribit app for iOS devices helps users share and browse videos via their social media feeds.
Penthera didn't disclose the amount of the investment, but Willner said he and Knafel are "investing a significant amount of money to get the company on its feet," adding "we'll, hopefully, help them take it to the next level."
Why this matters
It's the next big move for Willner and Knafel, two well-respected industry vets who founded Insight Communications in 1985. And, their involvement puts Penthera on the cable map.
With their financial and executive backing, Penthera should have no trouble setting up high-level meetings with the MSOs as cable operators migrate more video services to IP and seek out apps that they can offer on their set-top and mobile platforms.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable