Where it's based: Carlsbad, Calif.
When it was founded: 2011
Why it's Fierce: BandwidthX got its start when CEO and Founder Pertti Visuri lost a cellular signal on his smartphone and began looking for alternative Wi-Fi connections. "Everyone has the situation where you pull out your device when you don't have a good cellular signal and you look at the Wi-Fi settings and you see dozens of Wi-Fi access points that are locked," Visuri said, noting those Wi-Fi networks are probably unused. "What if all that capacity could be used?"
The result is BandwidthX, which Visuri likens to Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) AdSense in that it serves as a cloud-based marketplace that connects users who want Wi-Fi connections with the network operators that have capacity. BandwidthX essentially provides a market where both carriers and Internet service providers can define their value for capacity in real time and are automatically matched when their values align. "Everyone wins when you can create value from something that isn't being used today," Visuri said. "If you can remove friction from commerce … you always come better off."
The company's technology is riding a major push in the Wi-Fi industry to position the technology as an alternative to cellular. MVNOs, cable operators and others are hinting that Wi-Fi may well capture a significant share of smartphone and tablet users' connections.
Today, BandwidthX counts just under 50 employees, and millions of dollars in revenues coming in from its Bandwidth Marketplace. The company counts a handful of commercial contracts, though it's not naming names, and the company makes money by taking a percentage of the cash traveling through its marketplace. "We pride ourselves in that … we won't earn money unless our customers earn or save substantial amounts of money also," Visuri said.
What's next: BandwidthX is beginning trials with customers with tens of millions of subscribers. The company also is looking to expand internationally: "We've started in the U.S., but obviously this a global opportunity," Visuri said.
And what of Hotspot 2.0 technology, which promises to seamlessly connect smartphone users to participating Wi-Fi networks? "We're rooting for it," Visuri said. "It will make connections more secure. It will broaden the scope of things that can be done in these connections. We already support all flavors of it that are in existence."
"It's only going to help us," he added.