Where it's based: San Francisco
When it was founded: 2011
Why it's Fierce: Open Garden CMO Christophe Daligault claims the company is trying to build a wireless network that is independent of network infrastructure and also complements existing networks. The company claims to have 5 million people using its FireChat app, which demonstrates the company technology: It's basically a mesh network service where every phone using FireChat is an Internet node. This way, the chat app can be used even if the cellular network goes down. The more people who use the app and act as nodes, the more dense and resilient the network becomes, which is the opposite of traditional network architectures. Indeed, protestors in Hong Kong turned to FireChat to communicate due to fears the government would shut down the cellular networks there.
Open Garden wants to use the technology to power sensors and devices as part of the Internet of Things. Already, TrackR is using Open Garden technology for its coin-sized device that attaches to valuable items such as keys or luggage. If the object goes missing, the TrackR device will send its location to the owner when another TrackR user comes within 100 feet of the device.
According to Open Garden, more than 100 manufacturers of devices that use Bluetooth Low Energy technology have reached out to the company to work on similar projects, though the company declined to name potential partners.
Consumers might not pay a monthly subscription fee for devices like the TrackR, but instead might buy them from carriers, Open Garden hopes. With Open Garden software enabling the devices, device makers would pay carriers a one-time fee per device to get them on the network, and Open Garden hopes to strike revenue-sharing deals with carriers. Carriers would make money because they wouldn't need to provision the devices, according to Open Garden, and as carriers sell more devices, customers would become "stickier" and less likely to leave.
What's next: Open Garden wants to keep the FireChat app free and monetize its technology in the enterprise and IoT markets. The company is in the process of reaching out to device makers, developers and carriers to expand the reach of its technology.