Chargifi’s pipeline has grown massively since iPhone support for wireless charging was announced last year, and the company is aggressively pivoting to a channel strategy, which will soon see them add distribution in the U.S. and Canada as well.
Earlier this month, U.K.-startup Chargifi announced its latest funding round, of five million pounds – around $USD 7 million. Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has become an investor in this round. HPE has also announced that Chargifi, which is a member of the HPE Pathfinder program for startups, will go to market as part of the HPE connectivity portfolio through its HPE Complete Program.
“Chargifi is about five years old,” said Dan Bladen, Chargifi’s CEO. “Unlike most early stage companies, we aren’t entering an existing market. We are establishing a brand new one.”
Chargifi is addressing a nascent market for wireless power that Bladen says is similar to the wireless wi-fi market circa 1999, and where people are always looking for power to recharge.
“My background was mainly in networking, and we put that together with addressing wireless power to create Chargifi,” he said.
Bladen compared what Chargifi does to what Aruba and Meraki do in the wireless connectivity space, and like those companies, Chargifi’s secret sauce is their enterprise management platform.
“The management piece is our big value-add,” Bladen said. “We provide service providers and integrators with the tools they need to build out charging networks. Without us, there is no way to manage them, to fix them remotely, or to see how they are being used. We can provide very granular information on usage. Hotel brands can now engage with customers through wireless charging, and know where someone is sitting, based on proximity to the charging spot. We can tell within a centimetre where someone is sitting at a table because of proximity. Wi-fi cannot get close to that level of accuracy.
“We have built in analytics and triggers, but it all comes back to getting power at some point,” Bladen continued. “Through us, the customers get reliable power, sometimes in exchange for a trigger push from the vendor.”
Bladen said that Chargifi’s software has been immune to the teething problems that have come to market through others in these early days of the industry.
“We have seen Verizon in the U.S. deploy charging stations in JFK Airport, and about 30 per cent of them don’t work,” he said. “That wouldn’t be the case if our software was on them. Another company deployed at large scale with Starbucks, but a lot of the hardware broke, and people didn’t get a good user experience. We don’t see any real competition on smart wireless charging. There is on the hardware side, but smart wireless is what we see the market wanting right now.”
“Their innovation is the software to run the wireless charging stations,” said Ray Schuder, GM of the Pathfinder program at HPE. “They work primarily with SIs to get it installed, and they can work with any hardware. The real catalyst in their growth was when the new smartphones began to support wireless charging last year.”
HPE was not a part of Chargifi’s original seed round, but came in at this stage – before the Pathfinder program typically invests in a company – because they were excited about Chargifi’s revenue potential.
“This is their “A” round, and we typically invest in Series B companies,” Schuder said. “We invest in companies once they have reached the revenue stage, and Series A companies usually aren’t. Chargifi is though. Since we started talking to them their pipeline has grown 700x, after iPhone announced they would support wireless charging last September.”
Chargifi sold mainly direct out of the gate, although they did have some partners, and initially focused on higher-profile lighthouse customers. They had wins like Grand Hyatt Bars, and the Atlanta Falcons luxury boxes. However, with the explosion of demand, Chargifi has been aggressively transitioning to a channel model to scale up their reach.
“Within the last 6-9 months, we have focused an enormous amount of attention of channels,” Bladen said. “We want to put 90 per cent of our business through the channel now. We get a lot of leads through our website, and pass them on to our channel. Resellers use us as a unique selling point to get to customers they have wanted to get into for a long time. One network infrastructure provider here in the U.K. bundled us in to get into a sports venue.”
Bladen said that HPE has been a huge help in developing their channel, as one of the core pillars of Chargifi’s channel strategy, and that transitioning to HPE Complete, where Chargifi will be positioned within the HPE portfolio for both channel and direct sales, will enhance this further.
“We can make the most of their channel, and hopefully, they can make the most of us as well, he said. “We don’t have HPE’s connections, and we have been bringing new team members on to work with them, to get the most out of them. We will make the most of every opportunity with them – every partner, every event that they will put us at.
“We are also developing our own channel as well,” Bladen noted. “We have started to partner with two of the largest telcos in Europe, and are working with major system integrators, and leveraging their brand.”
Distribution is about to enter the picture.
“We will shortly be announcing two major distribution relationships, which will bring us to their resellers,” Bladen said. “One of these is in the U.K., and one in North America. With the North American one, we met with their Canadian part as well.”
Schuder said that HPE has very high hopes for this partnership.
“We see a lot of opportunity with our Aruba business, and have had a lot of joint customer meetings,” he indicated. “The Aruba opportunity around location-based services is also strong. We haven’t announced anything, and no products have been integrated, but there are lots of interesting possibilities.”
Schuder said that the market for this is likely to expand greatly as well.
“It goes back to mobility and the way people are using devices,” he said. “Today, it’s mainly phones, but it will be laptops, and other devices like drones and autonomous vehicles as well. People don’t want to be tethered by a cable. Applying it to cars is still a vision – but it will happen. It’s a question of when, not if.”