It's surprising what a few million dollars will do to help attract someone's attention.
There are great technical roots in Australia for this area, but poor market engagement and visibility
Southern Cross joint MD Larry Marshall
Silicon Valley-based wireless technology start-up Quantenna Communications is planning to open a 30 to 50-person research facility in Australia following an injection of venture capital by the Australian-US fund Southern Cross Venture Partners.
Southern Cross was the lead investor in a US$13.85 million series C investment round that included many of Quantenna's existing investors, including blue chip Silicon Valley VC Sequoia Capital.
Quantenna is developing technology to improve the reliability of wireless networking based on the Wireless N protocol, specifically in relation to streaming high-definition video within homes and apartment buildings.
Chairman Behrooz Rezvani says the technology, which optimises the "beam" that is used to transmit information wirelessly, is capable of improving the reliability of connections by 10 to 12 times. The company is currently providing samples of its technology to wireless equipment manufacturers, and Rezvani expects to announce its first commercial deals as early as the third quarter of this year.
Rezvani says his meetings with Southern Cross opened his eyes to the quality of Australian wireless technology innovation. He says this capability was reinforced again recently when large US companies including Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard and Asus chose to settle legal action out of court with the CSIRO for alleged patent infringements relating to 802.11 wireless technology. The terms of that settlement are unknown, but are believed to be highly favourable to the CSIRO.
In addition to the local talent available, Rezvani says that Australia poses none of the commercial or cultural challenges of other possible offshore locations, and is closer to Silicon Valley by plane than Bangalore.
His goal is to open a facility in Australia this year to investigate additional uses for Quantenna's technology. Rezvani says he is also seeking to create partnerships with Australian research institutions including NICTA and CSIRO, which are both operating extensive programs in wireless chip technology.
Southern Cross joint managing director Dr Larry Marshall, an expat Australian living in Silicon Valley, has joined the Quantenna board as a result of the transaction. Marshall has been a strong advocate for the proposed Australian facility.
"There are great technical roots in Australia for this area, but poor market engagement and visibility," Marshall says. "If we can attract people like Behrooz, companies like Quantenna, and VCs like Sequoia, Venrock and Sigma to start thinking of Australia like Israel, it will boost tech investment in Australia."