Veniam, a Portuguese startup working on providing free Wi-Fi in urban environments, is announcing it has raised $4.9 million in new funding.
If you’re acquainted with mesh networking (think FireChat, the nifty app that festival goers, for example, use to stay in touch), Veniam will sound familiar. The company has developed Internet-capable units that are set up inside urban vehicles such as buses and taxis. These units can communicate both with units in other vehicles and with Internet infrastructure.
“Everybody wants to be connected all the time.… Right now, people choose Wi-Fi because they have a better experience and its a better connection,” cofounder and chief executive João Barros said in an interview with VentureBeat.
After developing the technology for 18 months, the Veniam team opened its service in the city of Porto in Portugal this past September. Now it’s got more than 60,000 people in the city using its Wi-Fi service, Barros said. Veniam’s hotspots have 10 times the range of common hotspots, he said.
Barros added that while right now its units are transported mainly by garbage trucks and taxis, they can be placed in all sorts of urban vehicles. In Porto, the service is currently free to consumers because the transportation companies and brands are sponsoring it.
“The service can have a splash screen where brands can put their logo,” said Barros, when asked why Veniam isn’t charging users instead.
Veniam will use part of its funding to expand into the U.S. soon, starting with San Francisco, New York City, and Austin. Although Barros declined to share many details, he said Veniam’s units will first appear in privately owned vehicles from companies that have fleets in several cities, presumably a quick way to get Veniam’s Wi-Fi spreading as quickly as possible.
True Ventures led the round, with participation from Union Square Ventures, Cane Investments, and other investors.
Veniam was founded by João Barros, Susana Sargento, Robin Chase, founder and former chief executive of Zipcar, and Zipcar’s founding chief technology officer Roy Russell. The company is moving its headquarters to Mountain View, Calif. from Portugal.