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Meraki - Roofnet implementer gets $5M from Sequoia Capital

MIT media lab and its alumni have come up with some interesting projects: One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) and Roofnet are two notable ones. I will reserve my judgment on the OLPC for some other post but MIT’s open source Roofnet project, which essentially connects different routers to provide a mesh for uninterrupted wireless connection has some potential.

However, I think the Roofnet’s potential can only be realized if there is some control over what routers can be deployed in a given area. For example, it would be nice if I can make a wifi calls when I go for a walk in my neighborhood. But its not going to happen because even though all my neighbors have wifi, they are not sharing it. In fact one is advised not to share the network connecition for security concerns. Now, think of the same situation in a campus environment or in a public environment where one is trying to cover the whole city and has some say in the type of router that can be used.

Meraki, which implements Roofnet, sells routers for $50 that automatically become a part of the mesh. But a $50 router is not an incentive any more when you can go to Fry’s and buy Belkin or LinkSys router for almost the same amount. Sure, Maraki router has backend protocol for meshing built in but is that really good? Also if you look at the specs of the Meraki router, it only has 60mW power and the antenna is 2dBi, that’s puny and not optimal for a mesh environment. What it needs is about 10 dBi antenna and stronger, variable power profile.

In a nutshell, in reviewing Meraki, its a neat open source concept, it is useful in certain situation but the current implementation leaves a lot to be desired.

Other players that have tried something similar include Fon and DeviceSpace; Whisher (splinter group from Fon) and Ruckeus Wiress, none of them have had stellar record.

Google invested $1M a while ago but it was more of a bridge financing. Meraki just completed $5M series A from Sequoia Capital.

We wish Sanjit Biswas and his team a great success. By the way, love the form factor and cutness of the mini router!


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February 6th, 2007 Posted by Sunny Kalara | Startup | 3 comments