Kenyan firm BRCK has closed a $1.2 million seed funding round in order to launch its modem-cum-router device aimed at solving last-mile connectivity issues in Africa.
The company is a spinout from Kenyan crowdmapping firm Ushahidi, and claims its device will bring a seamless internet connection to remote areas, a “critical innovation for a variety of sectors across Africa”.
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East African Community (EAC) figures suggest 90 percent of schools and 30 percent of hospitals in the region are off-grid, while only 24 percent of the developing world is connected to the internet. The BRCK device seeks to tackle these problems through caching and distributing content to remote locations over mobile networks and setting up reliable Wi-Fi hotspots.
“The BRCK taps into the unique market characteristic of emerging market internet subscribers: 65 percent of whom access the internet wirelessly,” the company said. “The BRCK allows users to leverage the nearly ubiquitous mobile broadband and turn it into a connection designed for productivity, rather than solely consumption.
According to the company, the BRCK was designed to provide redundancy where power and internet infrastructure are poor, automatically switching to inbuilt batteries of the power goes down and to its own 3G connectivity when any SIM you’ve inserted can’t get a signal.
“Power spikes and outages are everyday occurrences in Nairobi and across Sub-Saharan Africa, no matter your income level,” BRCK said. “In Nigeria for example, you can expect up to 300 outages each year for 5-8 hours at a time. Power spikes are even more unpredictable.” The device was successfully tested in the Lake Turkana region last year.
The investment round was led by early stage investor Invested Development, along with Omvestments, Urban.us, Cheryl Heller and Gary Scheft of CommonWise LLC and Synergy Growth.
Invested Development founder and managing director Miguel Granier said: “Building a hardware company in Africa will have tremendous impact for the region if successful… well beyond the very useful product being developed. The potential impact and scale of this company made it an easy investment decision. BRCK uses technology to solve problems where there is a significant market gap.”