We’re excited to announce that we’ve completed a $1.2 million round of seed funding, to help advance our mission of bringing cellular access to the more than one billion people around the world who lack it.
Our seed round includes Kapor Capital (who invested in Formlabs, Twilio, Optimizely and Uber), Sanjit Biswas (co-founder of Meraki), data scientist Jeff Hammerbacher, and the Knight Foundation, which works to accelerate media innovation and create informed, engaged communities.
We’re grateful for their support in helping us seize the massive opportunity to empower rural communities through easier access to information. With this funding, we plan to take the Endaga solution to hundreds of rural communities around the world.
The idea for Endaga came out of the TIER research group at UC Berkeley. Before there was Internet.org and Google Loon, there was TIER – a foundational organization in the field of Information and Communication Technology and Development. My fellow co-founders Shaddi, Kashif and I met there and were all drawn to developing a new solution to the cellular access problem. (One of the things that drew me to the group was growing up in rural Alaska, where cellular access was often patchy at best.)
Our answer to bringing cellular access to this untouched market is to empower local communities to run cellular networks themselves. There’s been a lot of momentum in the international development community to empower local people to solve local problems. The thinking behind local ownership is that that’s the best way to ensure sustainable development and growth.
Having spent time installing and running Endaga’s pilot network with a primary school in Papua, Indonesia, I can tell you that the people who are best positioned to power a community cellular network are the people who use it. They know what their community needs, they know how to get things done (and who can do them) and they have a genuine incentive to keep their own infrastructure running smoothly over the long term.
There are various reasons that the problem of rural access hasn’t been solved. In developed and developing countries, the large telecoms tend to build and upgrade infrastructure in areas with high subscriber density – meaning mostly urban areas. That’s where we think the local ownership model changes everything.
In the last five years, the cost of cellular equipment has plummeted from $100,000 to about $10,000 – making it within reach for local entrepreneurs to run their own networks. What’s hard nowadays isn’t buying the hardware, but managing and operating in remote areas. Sending an engineer out to the field can cost thousands of dollars alone. Local operators cut these costs, and make these sites economically viable.
This is the core of Endaga: leveraging our combination of open source software and hardware to enable anyone, anywhere to run their own cellular network.
The new investment will go toward improving the usability of our software – basically, creating dozens of new cellular carriers from the ground up. It’s an exciting challenge for a startup to be able to reinvent the rules, creating a user experience with huge potential to improve the lives of more than a billion people around the world.
We’re also hiring software engineers to join our team. Get in touch if you want to learn more about working with us.