Bluetooth Low Energy has made some pretty wonderful things possible: finding your house keys and getting smartphone notifications on a fancy ring, for example. And now a startup called Open Garden is using the technology to let you message with others when Internet is not available.
Open Garden announced $10.8 million in new funding today. It also announced that it’s launching a few new features in its FireChat app to enable better group chat, including following other users.
The company’s FireChat app uses mesh networking technology, an approach that creates peer-to-peer connection instead of going through Wi-Fi or data service. On iOS, FireChat uses the Multipeer Connectivity Framework, and it uses its own mesh networking technology for the Android app. Although the company offers six apps, much of the new funding will go towards FireChat.
“What we’re going to pursue is the messaging because we started with it and we’re seeing traction,” Open Garden chief marketing officer Christophe Daligault told VentureBeat.
More specifically, Open Garden will focus a lot of attention on how its technology can enable other apps and organizations. It’s partnering with a host of organizations, especially in India, Brazil, and Asia. It’s also getting a lot of interest from festival and entertainment companies looking to capitalize on the technology for their own event-goers.
The company is working on releasing an application programming interface (API) and a software development kit (SDK) in the next two or three months, Daligault said. “We’ve seen more than 3,000 requests for this.”
The API will enable app developers to tap into FireChat’s messaging, meaning that if the app and FireChat are both on a smartphone and no Internet is available, the user will still be able to communicate. The SDK, on the other hand, will enable developers to integrate FireChat’s technology into their own.
Mobile game developers, for example, have been showing interest in FireChat’s tech, since it could enable people to play their games even when Internet connection is not available.
Open Garden’s board of directors includes a couple of interesting figures, including August Capital managing partner and first Skype investor Howard Hartenbaum (joining as part of the new round), and Nikesh Arora, vice chairman of SoftBank Corp. and a member of Sprint’s board of directors.
August Capital led this round of funding, with additional participation from Firebolt Ventures, Future Perfect Ventures, Kima Ventures, Tseung Kwan Ventures, and Sherpalo Ventures.
Open Garden was founded in 2011 by Stanislav Shalunov, Greg Hazel, Taylor Ongaro, and Micha Benoliel, and is based in San Francisco. It previously raised $2 million in seed funding.