uBeam’s getting ready to ship its wireless phone chargers, so its 26-year old CEO Meredith Perry has hired some hardware industry veterans to whip the business into shape. Former Apple and Palm finance leader Monica Hushen will be uBeam‘s new CFO, and Cisco, Palm, and Nokia VP Jeff Devine is joining as COO.
The firepower for the hires comes from a new raise. In April I reported uBeam was planning a $50 million Series B. Now I’ve confirmed it’s raised $10 million of that as an uncapped convertible note from current and new strategic investors, including L.A. lawyer and dealmaker Ken Hertz, Twitter VP of global media Katie Jacobs Stanton, former lead partner of General Atlantic Pat Hedley, and Ari Emanuel’s WME Ventures.
The money and connections will help uBeam take what everyone calls a dream and make it a reality. The company’s been quite secretive, but its technology uses ultrasound transmitters to transfer electric charge to multiple devices at a time over a distance of up to around 15 feet. This isn’t a wireless charging pad where you might as well plug your phone in. uBeam’s charging case converts the ultrasonic vibrations fired from the transmitters into energy. It could power up your phone while it’s in your pocket when you’re at a cafe.
Early prototypes required enormous, non-portable receivers. But now Perry says “We’ve reached a natural inflection point as a company where our focus is shifting from small-scale prototype development to large-scale production of product for the masses as we approach our launch.”
If it works, the ramifications of ultrasound transduction charging could go far beyond powering phones. It could cut the cords off home appliances and more. Until we see a fully-functional public demo of quick, safe, efficient charging at a distance, we can’t know for sure. But some very smart people are betting on uBeam.
Its first $3.2 million seed round came from top-name investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Ludlow Ventures, CrunchFund (run by TechCrunch’s founder), Troy Carter, Shawn Fanning and Mark Cuban. uBeam followed that with a $10 million Series A in October 2014 from existing investors and new lead Upfront Ventures. And now it’s got another $10 mill.
The new COO Devine will give uBeam experience navigating the manufacturing process as it moves into the execution phase. He was VP of supply chain management at Cisco and has 30 years of experience. Meanwhile, new CFO Hushen handled nine acquisitions while leading finance teams for Fortune 500 companies. I’ve heard uBeam has spoken with both Samsung and Apple, so whether there’s partnership or M&A potential, Hushen’s skills will come in handy.
Now the question will be just how uBeam launches and who helps. I’ve heard Starbucks has been in extensive talks to become a strategic investor, as have Virgin airlines, Starwood Hotels, and major fast food brands. They could potentially outfit their stores, planes, or hotels with uBeam transmitters, hand out the charging cases, and use wireless power to lure in customers.
The way we live our lives is subtly coerced by our desperate need to ration charge. We’ve become subtle slaves to the electron. But uBeam could break the chains.