IoT connectivity startup Helium raises $16M, adds Chandhok as president


Helium, a startup focused on Internet of Things connectivity that’s been operating fairly quietly since mid 2013, yesterday announced $15.98 million in series A funding and a major addition to its executive lineup: Rob Chandhok, recently off spearheading the AllJoyn protocol at Qualcomm, has joined the company as president and COO.

Khosla Ventures led the investment, along with FirstMark CapitalDigital GarageMarc BenioffSV Angel and others. Along with the cash influx, the company says Chandhok’s experience with IoT, wearables and large-scale wireless networks will help it grow. He’ll also join the company’s board, along with Chairman Shawn Fanning of Napster fame and Joi Ito the director at the MIT Media Lab.

Helium hasn’t revealed much about its technology, which appears to use a radio based on 802.15.4, unlicensed wireless bandwidth and an open source end node. The idea is that a lot of connected devices only need to exchange small amounts of data at a time — a few bits here, a kilobyte there — and, conveniently, low data rates are part of the tradeoff you make to get miles of range on a low-power signal.

Helium apparently plans to deploy “bridges” that offer city-blanketing Internet connectivity for very large numbers of devices, each of which gets just a tiny share of the network’s data capacity. The company’s stated goal is to build this out into a “complete Internet of Things platform for smart machines.”

Similar concepts are in the works at Sigfox and the Weightless group. Both Sigfox and Helium have been testing their networks in San Francisco since the summer.