Firetide adds $8.59m in funding, new investor

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

LOS GATOS, Calif.—Firetide, a wireless mesh networking provider focused on the video surveillance space, has raised $8.59 million in new funding, a continuation of its fourth round of funding. CEO Bo Larsson said the money is coming from a combination of internal investors and a new investor, ESCO Technologies, which works in the utility, filtration, and RF shielding space.

“We didn’t intend to have them invest,” said Larsson, “and they ended up investing a sizable amount in relation to the total amount.” This is because ESCO’s Aclara division recently signed an agreement with Firetide to develop a wireless mesh solution for automatic meter reading for utility companies. “ESCO sees the opportunity that we’re going after,” Larsson said, “and we signed a pretty large strategic commitment with them. They wanted to invest because the company is doing pretty well, actually, and they wanted to show that they were sincere about the agreement.”

Larsson said Firetide is “basically hitting break even right now” and has yet to have a down quarter. However, the company had planned to do a “little internal round” of fundraising because “we need to invest in Europe ... The market opportunity in Europe is about the same as in North America, and there’s no market leader there.” Currently, Firetide does about 65 percent of its business in North America, 25 percent in Asia, and only 10 percent in Europe. All sales are conducted through the integrator channel.

Larsson described Firetide’s market share in the U.S. as “very large”: “We have more than 400 cities deployed ... and the reason for that is because word is spreading in the consultant community that we have something that really works.” Larsson said field testing in both Phoenix and Los Angeles in recent months has proven 300 MB per second throughput with “uncompromised quality of service.” Municipal work is roughly 40 percent of revenues, he said, with another 20-25 percent coming from public-private facilities like airports, ports, mines, oil and gas facilities, prisons, and similar locations. The rest of the company’s revenue is generated companies like Korea Telecom, he said, that are deploying in “hardcore transportation environments” whereby, for example, moving subway cars have live video on board for the viewing of track up ahead.

While video surveillance triggers most of the systems deployed, Larsson said, Firetide is also now becoming the network backbone over which almost all municipal network traffic is being conducted. “Public safety was supposed the be the anchor for municipal broadband, but in many places that didn’t work out,” he said. “But now we’ve solved the public safety piece and the broadband is coming back on top of that, and [municipalities] can take the funding from different places and build one network that can do it all basically.”