Many may not know that Helium Inc started as a small startup over nine years ago. Shawn Fanning, Sean Carey, and I had this grand vision of a global, ubiquitous wireless network that connected devices to the internet easily and affordably.
In our early days, we were focused on connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices after seeing so many of our friends and industry leaders struggle to deliver the sci-fi future we were all promised. Since launching in 2013, we have experienced many challenges and pivots as a startup working to bring our vision to life. It wasn’t until 2017 when we had a crazy new idea — an idea that would actually have the potential to transform how the world connects to the internet.
Inspired by traction and excitement around Bitcoin, Ethereum, and other projects at the time, we embarked on a bold journey to build a decentralized wireless network powered by crypto. If it worked, we believed it would not only cause a tidal wave of new connected applications and use cases that were otherwise impossible, but it would put ownership in the hands of the people. At the time, we knew our vision for a decentralized wireless network was achievable from a technical standpoint, but we never anticipated how quickly the idea would catch on.
The Helium Network launched nearly three years ago in Austin, Texas, with an initial batch of Helium Hotspots. Fast forward to today and the Helium Network (also referred to as “The People’s Network”) consists of more than 682,000 Hotspots built by third-party manufacturers and operated by people around the globe — from Silicon Valley to Kyoto. It’s used daily by companies ranging from titans of the Fortune 500 to local businesses, while simultaneously contributing to the vitality of local communities with critical infrastructure monitoring such as air quality and forest fire hazards. In addition, Helium 5G is the second major wireless protocol approved by the Community, which will enable support for an entirely new class of devices such as phones.
We’ve come a long way since our early beginnings in 2013 and I’m constantly in awe of the Helium Network’s growth, from coverage to device utilization, and the brilliant ideas for improving it that arise from the Helium Community. This is the fastest rollout of a global wireless network in history, and we should all be immensely proud of what we’ve accomplished together so far.
Uniting the Community
On the heels of the Helium Network’s explosive growth, I am thrilled to share two exciting developments. First, Helium Inc., the corporate entity that we founded in 2013, has renamed to Nova Labs. With this name change, we aim to provide a clearer distinction between our corporate entity and the open-sourced Helium Network that is owned and operated by the people, and unite the Helium Community under a shared brand. So, what does this mean?
To unite the community, the Decentralized Wireless Alliance — the community-run non-profit organization responsible for governing and maintaining the Network-–has taken on stewardship of Helium Inc’s brand assets and renamed to the Helium Foundation. Under stewardship of the Helium Foundation, the Helium name and brand can now be used openly by the ecosystem. You can read the Helium Foundation announcement here.
While we may have a new name, Nova Labs is still dedicated to the advancement of the Helium Network. Our team of contributors will continue to develop work related to the core protocol, Helium blockchain, and Network infrastructure. In addition, we will continue efforts to expand coverage, increase utilization, and support our growing customer base.
Support Grows for the Helium Network
With our new name, we are excited to announce Nova Labs has received a $200M Series D equity round from a group of incredibly diverse and strategic investors led by Tiger Global and Andreessen Horowitz, with support from Seven Seven Six, Kingsway Capital, Goodyear Ventures, GV (formerly Google Ventures), Liberty Global (Vodafone and Virgin Media), NGP Capital (backed by Nokia), Pantera Capital, Ribbit Capital, and Deutsche Telekom’s strategic investment fund, Telekom Innovation Pool (TIP).
Alongside the work we are committed to continuing, the funding will enable Nova Labs to invest in the Helium ecosystem through hiring additional development resources, accelerating continued wireless protocol support, and building new applications on top of the Helium Network.
We are grateful to receive overwhelming support from industry leaders who are just as excited as we are about the possibilities of decentralized wireless networks powered by crypto incentives. In October, DISH opened the door by becoming the first major carrier to utilize the Helium Network’s crypto incentive model. Today, telecommunications companies like Deutsche Telekom, Liberty Global, NGP Capital back Nova Labs as investors.
The growth of the Helium Network over the past year has also caught the attention of companies like Senet, Actility, and X-Telia, who have joined the ecosystem as roaming partners with customers such as Cisco and Volvo. Today one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, Goodyear, joins as a strategic investor and partner of Nova Labs to explore the possibilities of connected mobility and transportation on the Helium Network. These strategic partnerships bring unprecedented usage opportunities by connecting large-scale deployments of new devices and applications on a Network powered by the people.
The Helium Network represents an innovative model for how the world will connect, and we believe it will transform the wireless industry and for decades to come. We’re inspired by everyone who has joined the movement globally, showing the true power of what can be achieved with a network owned and operated by the people.
Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll share updates on what Nova Labs has in the pipeline.