When you chance upon a landing page like uBeam which doesn't really tell you much except for a tall claim which in this case is 'wireless electricity', scepticism is bound to creep in. But this US based startup has got some great reviews and has just raised a huge $10 million round from Upfront Ventures. It all started when Mark Suster, Partner at Upfront Ventures met 24 year old Meredith Perry along with Marc Berte, the co-founders of uBeam. Meredith had already raised a seed round from the who's who of the Valley (Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Marissa Mayer, Mark Cuban, etc) but the ambition outlined in their deck seemed almost unbelievable, “to make wireless charging of phones (and other devices) as easy as WiFi”! How is this possible? Mark explains on his blog:
Take electricity as an input and through a process called ultrasonic transduction to convert it to a soundwave that can be beamed from a transmitter to a sleeve on your mobile phone that would use and ultrasound receiver to convert it back to electricity and charge your phone.
Many of their innovations that allowed this to work when nobody else had solved wireless transfer at a distance (several meters) included:
- A transmitter compact enough to be practical to hang in restaurants, coffee shops, your car, your home, etc.
- A receiver thin enough to be a sleeve on a phone and small enough in surface area requiring the right materials (they can transmit & receive with devices thinner than 5 millimeters)
- Precision tracking software so they can focus the sound beam to concentrate the sound wave exactly to your receiver and avoid inefficiencies of diffusion
- Methods for identifying the size, shape and motion of devices while they're moving.
Now, this is exciting. Audacious solutions to huge problems. It also falls in line with what Mark earlier wrote about looking to find stuff with more meaning. "This investment is also a function of the stage of much of our careers where we aren’t interested in playing small ball with incrementalism on how to squeeze out an extra 5% of margin by optimizing the Internet slightly better,' wrote Mark. And this for sure is cue for a lot of entrepreneurs back home in India. Two lessons:
- It is about time we start looking at bigger real problems which have a larger impact. This is what it means when you hear about the omnipresent advice- Dream Big
- This change also calls for a change at how college projects are looked at. With the right mindset and guidance, the raw talent coming from colleges can be shaped towards solving more meaningful problems. (related reads: Questions investors get asked too often)
This ofcourse doesn't mean that there is a lack of such ventures in elsewhere. Like the BRCK, a self powered mobile wifi device being conceptualized from Africa or one of our T30 companies- ActMobile which has a technology that expands mobile data plans by 2-5x while accelerating web pages and apps. Starting up is a tough, hard, challenging (append every other synonym) job and while one is at it, why not aim for the moonshot?
For uBeam, the goal is straightforward for now- to charge your mobile phones at amazing speeds while you are simply using your phone or setting it down anywhere. Over time, working with manufacturers, uBeam has a method that will allow the battery life to last 10x longer than today’s batteries before they degrade. They can allow manufacturers to use thinner batteries and thus further miniaturize phones.
This is a very interesting development and it might just all fall apart (like with most startups) but it is important to stay optimistic and root for such quantum leaps.
Tell us about some of the innovations that are tackling some huge problems, we'd love to write about them. Also, subscribe to our Startup Watchlist to keep a check on the most exciting startups being made from India.