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Enterprise Wireless Infrastructure for the AI-era

Celona's investor Arif Janmohamed on why he is betting on Celona.

This article was first published on September 18th 2019 via Medium.

A few years ago, I wrote about how Wi-Fi has become ubiquitous in our daily lives, especially at work. We have stopped worrying about ethernet wires to connect us to the internet or to our enterprise applications. Yet, we continue to demand more of our networks. Increasingly, we are competing for bandwidth due to high definition video applications or due to the ever increasing number of devices on the network… and this competition for a fixed resource (bandwidth) can yield some miserable experiences. How many times has your Zoom call degraded due to network congestion when your co-worker also joined the call?

All of the great first and second generation enterprise wireless companies have been acquired. HP swallowed Aruba Networks for $3B, Cisco bought Meraki Networks for $1.2B, and Arris recently acquired Ruckus Wireless for $800M. And earlier this year, Mist Systems, a Lightspeed portfolio company where I was privileged to serve as an early investor and board member, was acquired by Juniper Networks.

While I’m sure that our WiFi networks will continue to improve, there’s also a new, emerging class of enterprise applications that are even more bandwidth hungry, latency sensitive, and sensitive to disturbances in the network than today’s applications. These newer applications, such as robotics, computer vision, or real-time streaming analytics are AI-powered, business critical and demand always-on connectivity.

To service these new applications requires rethinking the enterprise wireless infrastructure. And this is just what the founders of Celona have set out to do. Celona will bring cellular technology (LTE and 5G) into the enterprise over a newly available, uncrowded band of wireless spectrum. Celona will create an end-to-end solution that makes the cellular network backbone affordable for and accessible by enterprise IT, resulting in an underlying enterprise network that will power the new experiences promised by tomorrow’s AI-powered applications.

Today, we are excited to announce our partnership with the Celona founders to build the next-generation enterprise wireless leader. We are thrilled to team up with our friends at Norwest and Cervin to co-lead the company’s $10M Series A financing.

It takes a special team to rethink the core networking infrastructure that powers our daily lives.

I first got to know Rajeev Shah, founder and CEO of Celona, a few years ago when I tried to recruit him for a role in one of my portfolio companies. While he ultimately didn’t join that company, it was clear to me that he’s one of this generation’s most gifted product thinkers in the enterprise infrastructure space. He had spent over 12 years at Aruba Networks, living and breathing enterprise networking and learning how to build products that customers want.

Earlier this year, I was thrilled when Rajeev approached me about his ambitious new project, Celona, to rethink enterprise networking. My excitement to partner with Rajeev grew when I met his co-founder and CTO, Mehmet Yavuz, who is a wireless legend. Most recently, Mehmet was CTO of Ruckus Wireless, and before that, he spent over 14 years as VP engineering at Qualcomm, where he cemented his reputation as a world-class expert on cellular wireless architectures.

It takes an ambitious and innovative founding team to recognize an opportunity to transform a market. And the Celona founders plan to define the next chapter in enterprise wireless networking. At Lightspeed, we are excited to partner with Rajeev and Mehmet in their journey to make LTE / 5G fully consumable in the enterprise and enable the next generation of business critical, AI-powered applications.

Arif Janmohamed is a Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners. He focuses on investments in enterprise IT and SaaS and sits on the boards of a number of rapidly scaling companies, including Netskope, TripActions, Appzen, Moveworks, and Celona. In his free time, Arif plays ice hockey with his wife, who yells at him for never passing the puck to her.

Lightspeed is a multi-stage VC firm focused on accelerating disruptive innovations and trends in the enterprise and consumer sectors. Lightspeed has backed 350+ companies globally in the past two decades including Nutanix, AppDynamics, MuleSoft, Snap and Nest.

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