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Meraki founders score $25 million from Andreessen Horowitz for sensor startup

May 19, 2015, 11:30 AM UTC
Courtesy of Samsara.

Two founders who helped big companies get a handle on their Wi-Fi networks and later sold their startup to Cisco for $1.2 billion, want to do the same thing for the Internet of things and sensors. And they now have $25 million in first-round funding led by Andreessen Horowitz to do it. Marc Andreessen will join the company’s board.

Sanjit Biswas and John Bicket have returned to the startup world with Samsara, a company that wants to “make large-scale wireless sensor systems a reality.” So far this means it produces a sensor, a chip, and associated software to connect the sensors securely and up to the cloud. According to a post published Tuesday on Medium, the company will start shipping its first products to customers in the next few weeks. There are dozens of other companies that provide a similar sensors and software with many connecting their sensors back to a cloud network.

Meraki’s expertise was actually in two places—building a wireless mesh network and in cloud-based software. It appear’s to have done something similar here. In an email response to questions about its infrastructure, CEO and Co-founder Biswas said:

“We’re taking an approach similar to what we did at Meraki — if you think back to the networking market 5-10 years ago, IT managers had to deal with a similar type of fragmentation as what we’re seeing in Industrial: equipment from one vendor, SNMP or SSH based management tools from a second company like Solarwinds, a third solution like Splunk for log file management, etc. The Meraki approach was to provide a complete system, and to give the customer control over things like configuration management and upgrades. We also built APIs on top for things like location-based services and retail analytics.”

While Biswas says the Samsara approach is “philosophically similar to what we built at Meraki,” Meraki struggled to find a market for years. The company, founded in 2006, had excellent technology, but it wasn’t until the ubiquitous adoption of Wi-Fi networks thanks to the iPhone and iPad that it moved out of the niche hotel market into the bigger corporate building market in 2009.

This time Biswas is later to the party, which means he may be hitting the Internet of things celebration at just the right time. Figuring out how to manage the roll out of software updates to software is a similar problem to what Pivotal is trying to do, and is indeed a big issue for big companies. As for interoperability, Biswas doesn’t want customers to have to worry about standards. He adds that customers will be able to take their data from the Samsara system for analysis in the ways that are specific to the data. So spreadsheet data might be exported as a .csv file, while other data could be accessed via an application programming interface.

As deeply nerdy as all this sounds, Biswas has a simple goal—one shared by thousands of startups and big companies seeing the potential of the next wave of innovation ahead when we connected everything to the Internet and start reaping the benefits of real-time data those connected devices produce. As he wrote in his Medium post:

We are definitely not the first to notice the technology trend behind the Internet of Things movement, but we realized no one was building products the way we did at Meraki, by combining hardware, software and cloud into an easy to use system. This is what got us really excited: we believe by making it easy to deploy sensors and analyze data, that customers of all types will finally be able to install them by the thousands in places they’ve never been used before.

Unlike many of his competitors, Biswas just got $25 million to try to make that dream of connection sensors a reality.