Airties was founded by Bülent Çelebi, Metin Taskın and Andre Van Hees in 2004 when Bülent and Metin decided to move from Silicon Valley to Turkey to launch a wireless technology venture. Their key insight was that there was a proliferation of internet connected devices around the home with nobody offering a user-friendly way to seamlessly manage them. Major home networking manufacturers were all using generic reference designs and treating countries outside the US as export markets with very limited product customization and customer support. Due to different construction techniques and telco infrastructure in the US vs. the EMEA region and most other markets, the generic reference designs optimized for the US were not performing well elsewhere.
Airties initially focused on the development and launch of router and Wi-Fi products for electronics retail market in Turkey. Starting out with basic customizations for the Turkish market, strong customer support and over time building differentiated technology, Airties captured in a few years 50%+ market share in Turkey for internet access devices while selling its products at a premium to leading international competitors. They reinvested the cash flow from the domestic market to invest in R&D and entered the IPTV set-top-box space. Airties had just started selling to telco operators, when we first met them in 2010.
Key Insights and Vision
When we met Airties in 2010, it had a unique Wi-Fi technology developed by a strong founder team with Silicon Valley experience and expertise both in chipset and Wi-Fi technologies, to solve the acute Wi-Fi pains in the densely populated cities with concrete buildings such as Istanbul.
Bülent and Metin had the clear vision that Wi-Fi would play an increasingly important role in homes including in video streaming, a view that was not at all prevalent at the time.
We were in the early days of the proliferation of connected devices in homes (first iPhone in 2007, first iPad in 2010), which would later create the perfect storm for Wi-Fi. But as the explosion of connected devices per household was unfolding, Wi-Fi in homes was already facing challenges.
Airties had built a portfolio of devices with differentiated embedded software to solve these pain points across various use cases and its superior technology was proven by very strong traction in the Turkish consumer market and with a few innovative operators in Europe.
Even if the Airties business model needed changes, the thesis was that its technology would have broad application.
Company’s Strategic and Operational Achievements
- Wi-Fi usage exploded as predicted, but the CPE (customer premise equipment) industry changed dramatically as well, requiring Airties to adapt. Products sold at retail to consumer lost significant share as operators offered devices free to their subscribers and, alongside chipset vendors, squeezed CPE vendors into being just integrators, which led to a large wave of consolidation. At the same time, the set-top-box business was under threat with streaming explosion and Mesh Wi-Fi solutions started appearing on retail store shelves, promised to what would be a short-lived popularity.
- In this challenging environment, Airties decided to focus on their most differentiated offering – smart home Wi-Fi solutions through operators, which would be the bedrock of the emerging connected home ecosystem.
- The sole focus on the telco operator channel was a key pivot to the business model. By providing them with a pathway to the Connected Home, Airties became a strategic partner by supplying first hardware devices and, progressively, a powerful Cloud software to manage Wi-Fi, easily deploy new connected home services and deliver a high-performance and secure home network. With the increasing importance of data, Airties Cloud also provided extensive analytics to operators.
- Around 2015, Airties decided to enter the competitive US market and thanks to its superior technology won a major client, another crucial moment for the Company.
- Since then, Airties has consistently won Tier-1 operators globally becoming by 2019 the most widely deployed provider of managed in-home Wi-Fi solutions to global operators.
- In 2019, Airties acquired Technicolor’s in-home Wi-Fi Management software business, known as Wireless Doctor, and integrated its R&D team in Belgium, accelerating the move to cloud.
- In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic created tremendous challenges and opportunities. On the one hand, the addition of work-from-home and distance learning to the preexisting Wi-Fi usages led to an explosion of Wi-Fi data loads, rising customer expectations, and putting more pressure on operators to meet them. As a result, Airties became even more business critical. On the other hand, the pandemic massively disrupted the supply chains and created operational challenges for the Company to overcome. This combination of factors significantly strengthened Airties differentiation and leadership.
- As a result of this powerful transformation in an ever-evolving market, starting in 2010 with virtually all sales coming from selling devices in electronics stores in Turkey and a handful of smaller telco operators in Europe, Airties became in 2021 a fully international company with 40% of sales in the US and 60% in Europe, while achieving its transition to Cloud and a recurring revenue business model. Airties first trailblazed and created its market and became its leader.
- During the same timeframe, Airties grew revenues consistently, with increasing profitability driven by higher share of software.
- In 2021, after a 12-year-long journey, the founders, management and Invus decided that the time had come to provide the Company with a new home to pursue the next stage of ambitious expansion of software and internationalization of footprint.
- In April 2022, a leading US private equity firm that specializes in growth-oriented investments in media, communications, education, and technology, agreed to acquire Airties for the next chapter of its development.
For more information on Airties please visit airties.com