Reno-based tech startup Filament secures $15M in venture financing | SierraSun.com

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Reno-based tech startup Filament secures $15M in venture financing

Reno startup Filament is gearing up for high-scale production.

The startup recently closed a $15 million round of new venture financing. The capital will allow Filament to scale manufacturing and hire additional employees as the company moves their secure Internet of Things (IoT) devices for industrial customers into production.

"A lot of our company up to this point has been building out prototypes and pilots," Allison Clift-Jennings, CEO of Filament and a native northern Nevadan, said in a phone interview. "Now we are really focusing, with this round of funding, to move into production deployment."

Filament creates smart industrial infrastructure by connecting existing machinery, equipment and assets to a wireless sensor network. This technology helps companies to increase efficiency by making equipment smart and connected. Filament's devices can be used to connect industrial equipment from a variety of industries including mining, oil and gas, automotive, food and beverage, manufacturing and more.

“Filament’s unique technologies are on a path to unlock both operational efficiencies and the exciting possibility of extremely secure machine-to-machine communication in otherwise hard to connect areas such as oil fields, construction sites, and airfields.”Duncan DavidsonBullpen Capital General Partner

Clift-Jennings explained that Filament's devices provide three areas of functionality for industrial machinery. First, the device can physically connect to the machine if it has a diagnostic port. Second, the technology can monitor the environment around the infrastructure. Their devices can monitor temperature, humidity, light, sound pressure level and accelerometer movement. Lastly, the devices can provide a large-scale network in areas where there is little or no cellular service or WiFi.

"We can actually build networks that have very large coverage in the middle of nowhere," she said.

Clift-Jennings co-founded the company in 2012 under the name Pinoccio. The company then produced wireless microcontrollers for do-it-yourself enthusiasts and hobbyists. It was a platform that helped people learn to build their own networks for their own home or office to create things such as a smart garden or a flood sensor for a basement.

"This was back when the term Internet of Things hadn't even been conceptualized yet," she explained. "We still called them connected devices."

When the company started to bring their products to the market, they began getting calls from research and development teams at large industrial companies who were trying to build wireless sensor networks.

They all had the same problem, Clift-Jennings said. "It is really hard to connect to old infrastructure and if we can do it we can save a bunch of money."

The company rebranded to Filament in 2015 as they pursued the industrial IoT market.

"It wasn't planned when we started Pinoccio, but like most startups, you have to adjust as you get more information," Clift-Jennings said.

Today, the company has 15 employees and is headquartered in downtown Reno with additional offices in Denver, San Francisco and St. Paul, Minn. This round of funding will allow the startup to hire additional employees in all locations starting in their Denver and Reno offices. Clift-Jennings explained that the company will be looking to hire employees for their Reno office in the areas of operations and project management as well as solutions engineering, which focuses on answering technical questions for potential customers to determine if Filament's technology is right for them. The company will also be looking to hire computer scientists, electrical engineers and firmware and systems engineers in their Denver office.

Being headquartered in Reno has proven advantageous due to its proximity to the Bay Area. While the tech culture in the Bay Area is unlike anywhere in the world, living in the Bay Area comes with a high cost of living and a high cost to hire engineering talent, she explained.

"We find that being in Reno is our secret weapon because we can still get to the Bay Area quickly … and still enjoy all the benefits of living in Reno," Clift-Jennings said."

That close proximity allowed her to be able to fly to the Bay Area once a week over the past six months to secure Filament's latest round of financing. She said that the company wouldn't have been able to raise the $15 million solely relying on Reno venture capitalists.

"Although (startup funding in Reno) is growing and it is getting better we are just not quite there yet," Clift-Jennings said.

The $15 million round of financing was led by Verizon Ventures and Bullpen Capital. New investors include Intel Capital, JetBlue Technology Ventures, CME Ventures, Flex technology accelerator program Lab IX, Backstage Capital, and Tappan Hill Ventures. Previous investors include Samsung NEXT, Resonant Venture Partners, and Digital Currency Group.

"Filament's unique technologies are on a path to unlock both operational efficiencies and the exciting possibility of extremely secure machine-to-machine communication in otherwise hard to connect areas such as oil fields, construction sites, and airfields," Bullpen Capital General Partner Duncan Davidson said in a press release. "Longer-term, we believe this will create the potential for new cost and revenue opportunities for Filament's customers."