Where it's based: Campbell, Calif.
When it was founded: 2000
Why it's Fierce: Founded by two scientists, Aoptix uses a technology called curvature adaptive optics to coordinate signals between a laser and moving objects. Specifically, curvature adaptive optics uses specialized mirrors that change shape thousands of times per second to compensate for atmospheric scintillation.
Initially, Aoptix worked closely with the Department of Defense and DARPA to create an ultra-high bandwidth "network in the sky," by putting its technology on airplanes for the military. However, about four years ago the firm retooled its business model and is now focused on using its technology to deliver wireless backhaul products to wireless operators globally.
What makes Aoptix's product, called Intellimax, so compelling is that it combines free space optics and millimeter wave technology to deliver very high bandwidth (in the range of 1-Gig to 4-Gig) with low latency for distances of about 10 kilometers, depending upon the terrain. For mobile operators looking for wireless backhaul solutions that transmit large amounts of data over long distances, Aoptix's technology is an intriguing option. According to Christina Richards, Aoptix's vice president of marketing, the company has been working closely with a Tier 1 U.S. operator (which it cannot identify) on its backhaul technology since 2011. That operator, Richards said, has helped the company fine-tune its product line.
Another benefit of Aoptix, according to Richards, is that the technology can be easily and quickly installed, and the laser can be auto-aligned so that it works in about 20 minutes, which reduces installation costs.
The company has received numerous awards for its technology, including a 2015 Cool Vendor Award from Gartner. It was also a finalist in the FierceMarkets 2014 Innovation awards and a finalist in the LTE North America 2014 awards.
In 2012, the company received a $42 million Series E round of funding, bringing its total investments to $123 million. Investors include Clearstone Venture Partners, DAG Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Northgate Capital and W Capital Partners and True Ventures.
What's Next: Aoptix just teamed with Anova Technologies to deploy a 26 kilometer network in New Jersey to connect the BATS and NASDAQ stock exchanges. The network uses Aoptix's laser technology to deliver data to traders quickly and with low latency.
While enterprise deployments such as connecting these two stock exchanges are key for the company, Richards said that wireless operators are Aoptix's target market. He said that, as U.S. operators look to increase capacity in their LTE networks, Aoptix has an opportunity to shine. "Operators need capacity and distance and availability," Richards said, noting that when fiber is not available for the backhaul link, Aoptix can provide a compelling and easy-to-deploy option.