Napster Founder’s IoT Startup to Go Crypto With $15 Million Series C

An internet-of-things (IoT) startup founded in 2013 is adding tokens to its business model with the backing of two of crypto’s best-known funders.

Helium announced Wednesday a $15 million Series C co-led by Union Square Ventures and Multicoin Capital. Investors will acquire equity in Helium as well as a share of the tokens that will accrue to the company over the next several years as they are minted, after its bespoke blockchain goes live, according to a spokesperson.

Previous investors that participated in the latest round included Khosla Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), FirstMark Capital and German reinsurance giant Munich Re. The new round brings Helium’s total funding so far to just under $54 million.

Helium was founded to create a low-cost data network that IoT devices could access using consumer WiFi as its backend. The company sees current ways of getting IoT data back to firms that need it as too expensive. By driving down those costs, Helium says its network could challenge traditional telecommunications infrastructure.

But the company has come to see tokens as a necessary ingredient for spurring adoption.

“When we started the business in 2013, the goal was always to try to build this big broad network that everybody could use,” Helium CEO and founder Amir Haleem told CoinDesk, adding:

“We arrived at this conclusion a few years ago that crypto was the best model for what we’ve been building.”

Last year, Helium released a white paper for a decentralized wireless network that uses publicly available radio frequency to solve the last-mile problem of connecting IoT devices and the public internet.

Haleem founded the company alongside peer-to-peer pioneer Shawn Fanning (of Napster fame, also an investor in Uber and Square) and Chris Bruce (who sold an IoT company called Sproutling to Mattel).

The company sells its Helium Hotspot for $495. The device connects to users’ existing home WiFi networks and serves as a hub…

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