Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is doing it again: He’s the lead investor in a new $84 million funding round for Redmond, Wash.-based Kymeta Corp., the mobile connectivity startup he helped foster a decade ago.
Kymeta says the fresh infusion of equity investment will be used to accelerate the production of its flat-panel antennas and set the stage for expanding its offerings for defense customers, as well as for users of satellite broadband services that are being offered from low Earth orbit.
The funding announced today follows up on an $85 million round that was also led by Gates in August 2020, as well as a $30 million investment that was made by South Korea’s Hanwha Systems just a few months afterward. Kymeta says Hanwha is also participating in the new round.
All of the equity investments announced to date add up to nearly $400 million — with Gates playing a principal role ever since the company was spun out from Intellectual Ventures in 2012.
“Kymeta’s growth opportunities continue to multiply as we develop, deliver and launch innovative products into the market to great success,” S. Douglas Hutcheson, Kymeta’s executive chairman and co-CEO, said today in a news release. “This is an exciting period for Investors as they see the growing enthusiasm for our products as we continue to hit our milestones, and this strong financial backing is another testament to that.”
The key technology behind Kymeta’s antennas has to do with metamaterials, a method that uses electronics to “steer” an antenna without the need for moving parts. Kymeta is one of several Gates-backed startups that make use of metamaterials (others include Echodyne, Pivotal Commware and Lumotive).
Kymeta’s u8 antenna serves as the foundation for a hybrid cellular-satellite service that optimizes high-bandwidth mobile connectivity based on location. That’s particularly attractive for government and defense customers who need to stay connected on the battlefield or in other types of emergency situations.
Last year, Kymeta signed onto a joint development agreement with OneWeb to develop a flat-panel user terminal for land-based, fixed-location systems — with an eye toward eventually supporting additional mobile applications on land and sea. Kymeta is working with another satellite venture, Kepler Communications, on connectivity options for smart devices.
Kymeta says the fresh funding will boost the company’s antenna manufacturing capacity and the evolution of the u8 product line as it expands from Ku-band satellite services to take in the Ka-band as well.
Widening u8’s capabilities should also widen Kymeta’s market opportunities. SpaceX, for example, makes use of both Ku-band and Ka-band frequencies for its Starlink service — and Amazon is planning to use the Ka-band for its Project Kuiper satellite broadband service.
“We are excited to continue in the development of both our second-generation u8 product family and third-generation technology that promises to provide even higher efficiencies and lower costs for our customers,” Hutcheson said.