Helium Inc., the creator of a blockchain that powers a decentralized wireless network, raised $200 million in a funding round led by Tiger Global Management and Andreessen Horowitz. The startup, valued at $1.2 billion with the latest funding, also said Wednesday that it is changing its name to Nova Labs Inc.
The new name will create further separation between the company and the Helium blockchain, which is designed to be managed by its users, said Nova Labs founder and Chief Executive Officer Amir Haleem. The company will use the funding to build new products that use the Helium wireless network, he said.
The network currently relies on devices called Hotspots that people can purchase and place in their homes. Hotspots provide what the company calls LongFi coverage for gadgets like pet-tracking collars and environmental sensors such as flood meters that connect to the internet using a radio frequency. Hotspot owners earn a crypto token called HNT when their networks are accessed by other users. HNT can then be exchanged for cash.
There are about 668,000 Hotspots worldwide and as many as 3 million more on backorder amid supply chain constraints, according to Haleem. He said the eventual goal is that the Helium Network will become a major cellular provider.
The San Francisco-based company, founded in 2013, began working with mobile technology provider GigSky Inc. and 5G company FreedomFi Inc. in September to offer cellular service. Haleem said there are currently 20,000 Hotspots that use 5G to provide cellular roaming services using the Helium Network.