Many American businesses are hanging on for dear life, but Maryam Rofougaran’s wireless 5G telecom equipment maker Movandi Corp. in Irvine has hauled in a $27 million investment in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
OK, what’s her secret?
“It’s not a secret,” she said, attributing the success to teamwork and the credibility the company and its executive team have built up over the years.
“If you have valuable stuff and there is potential, you can still manage to get confidence from the investors.”
Rofougaran is co-founder and co-chief executive of Movandi along with her brother, Reza Rofougaran. The siblings’ company aims to speed up wireless communications networks with its 5G-focused products, which include a variety of integrated circuits, antennas, systems, and other products designed to be used by operators of wireless networks, as well as chipmakers and device makers.
The company’s BeamXR platform, for example, can boost the power of wave signals used by 5G operators to transmit data, to penetrate buildings and avoid interference from the rain. The platform also can bend wave signals around a building.
That means that fewer base stations and antennas should be needed to send 5G cellphone calls back and forth.
The shift of tens of millions of people to working at home during the COVID-19 crisis underscored the need for the advanced technology and super-fast wireless internet, and if anything helped raise the company’s profile in the market, she told the Business Journal on April 17.
“This is something that people knew before, but now they actually understand even more how critical it is,” Rofougaran said.
“This whole virus and this whole shutdown and forcing everyone to work from home has made it even more clear that having access to fast internet and being able to work remotely and support large amounts of data and very quick low latency is key,” she said.
Movandi raised the money in a Series C funding round led by venture capital firm WRVI Capital of Menlo Park.
Sriram Viswanathan, a founding managing partner of WRVI, said Movandi has had “a major impact on the wireless industry so far, and we expect much more from them in the future.” Cota Capital of San Francisco and San Mateo’s DNX Ventures also took part in the funding.
The discussions over the new funding round took place over “the past few months,” according to Rofougaran.
The co-founders have plenty of experience in the investment world; prior to Movandi, the siblings started another wireless company, El Segundo’s Innovent Systems, which was acquired by then Irvine-based Broadcom in 2000 for a reported $457 million in stock.
Movandi’s funding total is now approaching $67 million; the company was founded in 2016.
The latest funding round puts Movandi’s valuation in the range of $108 million to $162 million, according to an estimate from Amsterdam-based Dealroom.co, an information service for investors and corporations.
Use of Proceeds
The new infusion of cash will let the company ramp up and expand various components to speed up wireless communications.
The company early last year introduced its BeamXR technology, to extend coverage, keep transmission delays low and overcome some line-of-sight issues, melding “reliability … network coverage … and mobile performance.”
Movandi will also use the new funds to increase its teams in Irvine and Australia to continue developing its products. The company’s headcount currently stands at 70 people.
The heavily publicized and oft-debated 5G is short for the fifth generation of cellular wireless technology now on its way in the U.S.
It’s designed to provide high-bandwidth connectivity that can be up to 100 times faster than 4G LTE connections used today.
Movandi’s product focus is on creating 5G millimeter wave networks, which while able to carry a lot of data, have seen questions about their suitability over long distances, dealing with atmospheric interference and the ability to go through walls, often requiring a direct line of sight. Those are among the challenges Movandi is seeking to solve.
Rofougaran noted that operators Verizon and AT&T continue to make investments in the millimeter wave area, for example. They are feeling the pinch of much higher usage, stretching the networks.
“They see that usage has gone up by 75% in some areas,” according to the co-CEO.
She expects “some good revenue” this year depending on the fallout from the pandemic, with more in 2021. She hopes the company will not need “major investment going forward.”
“We think that we’re going to be generating enough revenue that we would not require more money,” she said. “We’ll see how things go and how fast the market grows, but right now we’re very close to shipping products.”
The company has not had any layoffs, bucking the trend set by many companies nationwide.
“Our initial partners and customers are mainly operators, both in the U.S. and Korea. Other countries, too, are planning to do millimeter wave quickly, she said. “We’re pretty much working with all operators.”
“Right now, it’s more on the infrastructure side but we’re actually going to get into mobile devices as well, sometime in the next couple of years,” according to Rofougaran.
Everyone at Movandi is currently working from home, though occasionally someone will need to go into the lab and fortunately “a lot of the hardware is already done.”
While respecting the pandemic safety guidelines, Rofougaran urged keeping the COVID-19 outbreak in perspective.
“It’s not the end of the world,” she said.