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4 April, 2006 - 10:37 By Staff Reporter

Palo Alto wireless firm hits Cambridge with disruptive agenda

A Silicon Valley start-up has moved into Cambridgeshire to develop what it believes will prove one of the most exciting products in the world of wireless since the early days of Wi-Fi.A Silicon Valley start-up has moved into Cambridgeshire to develop what it believes will prove one of the most exciting products in the world of wireless since the early days of Wi-Fi.

H-Stream Wireless of Palo Alto, California, is seeking world-leading semiconductor engineers for its new design centre in Littleport near Ely and ramping up the development of its enigmatic low-power wireless offering on the back of a £7.22 million Series A funding round.

The move is a testament to the region’s soaring reputation as one of the world’s most important wireless clusters, capable of creating billion pound companies on the back of ground-breaking technology. H-Stream has started with a bang by recruiting three renowned Cambridge engineers.

Simon Black, Jonathan Edney and Dr Chris Kelly are all at work in the new office on a technology that Edney, former general manager at wireless pioneer Symbionics, believes has massive worldwide potential.

He said: "We have witnessed many innovations in the wireless arena since the early days of Wi-Fi. None, however, are as exciting and with such potential as the innovation on which H-Stream was founded.

"What it is doing is novel, it would effect everybody and does not sit in a niche business. We are thrilled to be part of this industry-changing company."

Edney and the rest of the Cambridge team are well-placed to comment on the potential of the new 802.11 technology. Black is widely recognised as a key technical contributor and expert in the wireless communications industry and the three were together at Symbionics in the early nineties before starting up Intalk, which was later acquired by Nokia.

Though Edney maintains that H-Stream’s secrecy is to prevent any copycat firms taking advantage and the company is officially in stealth mode, Prof Dr Jan Rabaey, co-director of the Berkeley Wireless Research Center and technical advisor to H-Stream since its inception was a little more revealing.

He said: "H-Stream’s unique approach overcomes key roadblocks in the development of ultra-low power wireless solutions, delivering both silicon and protocol breakthroughs. I am very excited to be closely involved with the team from the very beginning."

There are several specifications in the 802.11 family, which underpins the well-known Wi-Fi standard and is used to create a wireless local area network (WLAN) over a relatively small area, like an office building.

The Cambridge design centre will initially focus on software development.

Co-founder and vice president business development Roel Peeters said: "We strive to attract the best possible talent without limiting ourselves to Silicon Valley.

"With that in mind, it only made sense to open a Cambridge office when top notch guys like Jon Edney, Simon Black and Chris Kelly decided to join our engineering team."

Edney is in no doubt about Cambridge’s growing reputation and importance in the world of wireless and the e-space North offices H-Stream uses are flexible enough for the firm to take on more staff.

He said: "One of the reasons we opened here was to get access to engineering talent in Cambridge where there is more than a fair amount of 802.11 expertise.

"Historically there has been a lot of pioneering work in digital wireless in the vicinity. Symbionics in the nineties, The Technology Partnership and other companies more recently like CSR and Cambridge Consultants."

H-Stream’s Series A funding was provided by Granite Ventures, Intel Capital, Tallwood Venture Capital and selected angel investors.

Original seed funds were provided by a larger group of angels which included founders of VLSI Tech-nologies, Netscreen (now Juniper Networks), Omnivision and Spread-trum.

Ron Yara, general partner at Tallwood, said: "H-Stream has identified a unique opportunity in the low power wireless space, and pulled together a stellar core team and advisory board to prove its technical and market feasibility.

"With this cash infusion, we believe that all the right ingredients are in place for them to execute on their vision."

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