Ina Fried

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Bill Gates Part of $12 Million Round for Satellite Mobile Broadband Start-Up

Bill Gates is part of a $12 million investment round in Kymeta, a company that aims to offer users satellite broadband access on the go.

A prototype of a Kymeta portable hotspot, about the size of a laptop computer.

Kymeta is a spinout from Intellectual Ventures, the Nathan Myhrvold-run company best known for its irksome strategy of amassing patents and then looking to collect from companies whose products make use of the patents.

The Redmond, Wash.-based company is the second spinout for Intellectual Ventures, preceded by TerraPower, which aims to build a new kind of nuclear reactor.

Other backers of Kymeta include Liberty Global and Lux Capital.

Kymeta’s technology uses something called “metamaterials,” artificial materials that can manipulate electromagnetic radiation that can steer a radio signal toward a satellite, thereby creating a continuous broadband link.

The company said its method should pave the way for antennas that are thinner, lighter and cheaper than today’s satellite antennas.

“Metamaterials were an early focus for IV, so the spinout of Kymeta marks an important milestone in our invention work,” Intellectual Ventures Executive VP Casey Tegreene said in a statement. “As groundbreaking as it is, the satellite antenna technology behind Kymeta only scratches the surface of what metamaterials can do.”

Kymeta plans to create products for the aerospace, transportation and maritime industries, as well as for people like reporters and first responders. It also hopes to develop a portable satellite hotspot product for individual users. The goal is to have products on the market by 2015.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik