Fierce 15 2016: Afero looks to declutter development for the IoT

Fierce15 2016

Editor's note: Welcome to the 2016 Fierce 15, which recognizes 15 of the most interesting startups in the wireless industry. We'll publish one profile a day for 15 days; Afero is the third company to be recognized this year.

Company: Afero
Where it's based: Los Altos, California
When it was founded: 2014

Why it's Fierce: The Internet of Things (IoT) is one of the primary pistons driving the 5G engine. But within that IoT segment there are a lot of moving parts that need to align along the way from idea to market.

Afero didn’t always have a platform in mind. In 2014, the company began building a new kind of consumer IoT device and eventually created a working prototype, which entailed building many of the necessary infrastructure pieces on its own.

“We planned to reuse that infrastructure for future products, so we had designed it in a tightly integrated but modular way. It was an investment, one that would make future product development easier and faster,” CEO Joe Britt told FierceWireless. “We were excited about our device concept, but found ourselves getting more excited about the framework we were building the device on. We had developed what we saw as elegant solutions for common problems that most IoT developers encounter.”

So Afero decided it was the infrastructure and not the device that was worth bringing to market.

Afero provides development tools to its customers and helps manage backend cloud services. The company also sells its ASR-1 Bluetooth module with a firmware overlay geared toward strengthening security and simplifying security. Britt told Recode that the extra security is achieved by varying the length and frequency of packet transmissions for connected devices, which makes it more difficult for hackers to tell what sort of devices are on a network and what information might be in the encrypted packets.

Britt, a former Google engineer who worked with Android founder Andy Rubin, leads a team lined with veterans of companies including Apple, Google, Nest, Danger, Amazon Lab 126, Netflix, and Microsoft. That team along with the IoT solution that Afero has built has helped the company attract a $20 million investment round led by Samsung, SoftBank, Fenox Venture Capital and others. Afero counts Murata, Infocom, and Bandai Namco Studios as its early customers.

“The team’s experience and their playbook from past successes makes us believe Afero will power the next generation of IoT technologies,” said Anis Uzzaman, General Partner from Fenox Venture Capital, in a statement.

What's next: “We have a clear vision of what we hope Afero can accomplish over the next five to ten years,” Britt told FierceWireless. “In the short term, we want to continue to grow the business and help our partners reach their full potential. Long term, we’re focused on driving the fundamental changes in the IoT world to achieve our mission (to continue developing the next generation of platforms in ubiquitous computing), and to improve the way people communicate with each other and everything around them.”

Read more: FierceWireless's Fierce 15 2016