Like WiFi before it, could wireless charging be the next value-add for coffee shops and other public venues? One startup banking on that being the case is London-headquartered Chargifi, which is building out a wireless charging network.
Today the company is announcing a $2.7 million Series A round led by Intel Capital, who can also be seen as a strategic investor given that the chipmaker is on the cusp of building wireless charging into its latest chipsets. Others backing Chargifi include Techstars, R/GA Ventures, and ZipCar founder Brett Akker.
“Chargifi serves the inflexion point between the user’s mobile needs and a venue’s physical infrastructure,” says Chargifi co-founder and CEO Dan Bladen. “For instance, installing Chargifi in coffee shops not only provides an important service and utility for users, but it also serves venues themselves.”
That’s because — along with re-selling the required hardware, which is based on new ‘magnetic resonance’ wireless charging technology — the startup provides software-as-a-service to help with the management of wireless charging points and related analytics and marketing opportunities.
It’s the latter where there is potential money to be made. Like WiFi, venues won’t necessarily charge for wireless charging but can piggyback the technology to better understand and market to customers.
“Due to Chargifi’s hyper-accurate location ability, matched with demographics, and travel charging patterns we are able to serve very targeted messages to members,” explains Baden.
“Chargifi’s network allows us to not only know what building a person is charging in but what table, what direction they are facing, and in some cases what door they walked into the room from. This allows us to map travel patterns, to demographics, to locations, not only improving digital advertising but also traditional out of home signage as well.”
Worth noting too is that although Chargifi has only run ‘dark trials’ to date these are currently taking place in five different countries, while the company has distribution and license partners across a further eight markets including Singapore, Hong Kong, India and the United Arab Emirates. Separately, I’m also hearing Chargifi has signed up two of London’s largest coffee chains as well, and is aiming to launch properly by the end of the year.
With that said, the company is also in the curious position of waiting for the technology to catch up, in terms of the new wireless charging being built into devices and chipsets, hence why Intel’s backing is significant. As it stands, customers are required to plug a small wireless charging dongle into their devices, coupled with downloading the Chargifi app.
Meanwhile, Baden cites Powermat as the startup’s main competitor. The 2006-founded company is best known for its home charging mats but has recently started branching out to provide public facing services in similar locations to Chargifi.
“Chargifi powers devices using magnetic resonance, which allows for greater positional freedom than traditional inductive charging techniques. Furthermore, the Chargifi platform provides powerful network management tools for venues to control their wireless charging systems and realise a return on their investment,” he says.