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Finding a Viable Monetization Model: wefi CEO Zur Feldman (Part 3)

Posted on Friday, Apr 4th 2014

Sramana Mitra: How does the story of wefi begin? Were you incubating this company inside of your venture firm, Pitango?

Zur Feldman: Yes. Pitango was a seed investor in this company. This company actually started in late 2006 before the first iPhone came out in 2007. The premise was that the devices that were starting to build will create an enormous demand on bandwidth and the supply will become a scarce resource. Technology that was assessed at that time showed that the infrastructure wouldn’t be able to provide adequate coverage and respond to the enormous data demand. Technology for connectivity, at that time, was not really available in almost any of the mobile devices with the exception of a few laptops. We only had WiFi then.

WiFi will become a dominant complementary technology that will be a very important element in providing coverage and supply. It will actually enhance the ability of users to use devices with a lot of data. Data, at that time, would be files with some pictures. Today when you talk about data, you talk about huge files with HD videos that require enormous amount of data. There are definitely a lot of issues in different places.

Even three years ago, we taught our technology of virtual network and how we’re actually able to get the perspective of the experience and the needed bandwidth, not from the network outside but from the consumers – looking at multiple technologies and carrier as augmentation rather than one network trying to compete with the other network. This is what was appealing to us. We created a huge database with hundreds of millions of WiFi hotspots that we thought could be augmented. You can actually select the right technology at the right time and have the experience for the user becoming almost, in many instances, seamless.

This was the premise at that time. I can tell you this is an example of Verizon at that time. By the way, until today, Verizon’s strategy on WiFi is not yet very aggressive but at that time, they had one mobile device with WiFi. If you think about it today, there’s not a single mobile device that goes out without WiFi. It’s not even a question.

Sramana Mitra: You said you decided to quit Pitango to do wefi.

Zur Feldman: I felt that I am compelled to continue to do things and to redo things that are making a difference. I wouldn’t say that VCs, specifically in Israel, are known to support startups in new ideas. When you sit across the table from the side that’s actually putting in the money, it’s different from when you take the risk yourself to build the team and to get this off the ground.

There were great ideas, specifically in 2008. It was not easy to finance. A lot of really good companies didn’t take off. It’s a very big risk. For someone who loves the excitement and challenge of new ideas, it’s very meaningful. I was drawn into this vision and wanted to make this a reality. I really see how it builds up here. I love it. Also over the years, you accumulate a lot of experience that you want to share with people and you want to help people. Some of those people in those companies are younger than my own kids, which is interesting.

This segment is part 3 in the series : Finding a Viable Monetization Model: wefi CEO Zur Feldman
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