SkyPilot Gets Cash & CEO

Perennial startup SkyPilot Network Inc. is back with $15 million in VC funding and a new -- yet strangely familiar -- CEO at the helm.

The new CEO is Bob Machlin, lately of ill-fated wireless LAN switch startup AirFlow Networks (see AirFlow Gets Dough, CEO and AirFlown?). The extra funding is from SkyPilot's previous investors and brings total amount invested in the firm up to $44.4 million (see SkyPilot Nabs $15M, New CEO).

So, what is this company, which first started over five years ago with a smart antenna technology aimed at fixed wireless applications, up to now?

"Big picture is carrier-class wireless networks for service providers," says Machlin.

In this case, "carrier class" means bringing together a smorgasboard of hot-topic wireless technologies, such as mesh networking and WiMax-esque Layer two technology into a platform aimed at cable operators, CLECs, ILECs, and wireless ISPs.

"It looks a lot like WiMax... but pre-WiMax is a lousy way to describe it," Machlin says of the firm's mesh transport technology.

Other firms such as Tropos Networks have talked about using WiMax to extend the range of metropolitan mesh deployments, but most seem to be waiting for official product before launching longer range systems (see WiFi Goes WiMax).

Perhaps the wackiest part of the SkyPilot system is the mechanism it uses to deal with antennas broadcasting over each other's signals. The firm has installed GPS transmitters in the nodes so that they don't transmit in the same place at the same time.

"We don't have a self-interference problem," claims Machlin [ed note: that's what they all say].

Even though SkyPilot has been rather low profile of late, Machlin says the firm now has 105 customers in 31 countries.

So, how come no one has heard of this firm? "Up to now, we've done little to no marketing," Machlin admits.

This will change, he says, as the firm intends to spend its new VC money on building up its sales and marketing efforts.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

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