L.A.’s largest venture capital firm, Upfront Ventures, plans to double down on wireless charging startup uBeam Inc., with plans to lead a not-yet-complete $20 million Series B round alongside investments from Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund and Mark Cuban, the Business Journal has learned.
Word of the $20 million round came during a presentation to prospective investors last week by Meredith Perry, uBeam’s chief executive.
The funds would finance the Santa Monica-based startup’s operations for two years at the firm’s current cash burn rate, Perry said in the webinar for prospective investors convened by Israeli crowdfunding company OurCrowd.
Perry said the latest round could help the firm put an ultrasonic wireless energy product on market as soon as the third quarter of 2019. The company is valued pre-investment by its shareholders at $100 million, according to a person familiar with the documents that prospective investors have received from the company.
Perry did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Upfront Ventures General Partner Mark Suster, who sits on uBeam’s board of directors.
UBeam stirred controversy within the scientific and venture capital communities in recent years after widely publicizing a claim to wirelessly charge electronics, such as cellphones, using ultrasonic waves sent through the air at distances of several feet. Critics said converting ultrasonic waves into electrical energy is possible in a rudimentary sense, but absent a technological breakthrough, they were doubtful the technology can perform as claimed.
The firm has raised more than $26 million from investors since its founding in 2012. Investors include Andreesen Horowitz in Menlo Park, Upfront Ventures in Santa Monica, Peter Thiel’s Founder’s Fund in San Francisco, as well as billionaire Mark Cuban and former Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Marissa Mayer.
Upfront Ventures led uBeam’s $10 million Series A round in 2014, investing $7.5 million. The firm’s Suster said at the time that it was the largest Series A check he had ever written.
The venture capital firm now has nearly $2 billion of capital under management, including $400 million raised in June for is sixth fund.
UBeam has gotten over some earlier fumbles to make some progress over the past year. Perry demonstrated a brick-sized wireless charger receiving enough power to light up the battery icon on a cellphone in an interview with USA Today earlier this year. She also acknowledged for the first time a number of technology limitations, including the inability of the device to charge while its sits in a pants pocket, moves around a room, is positioned at angles greater than 45 degrees to its transmitter or at distances greater than 10 feet.
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