Meraki’s Guerilla Wi-Fi to Put a Billion More People Online

Christopher Mims in Scientific American:

Screenhunter_06_aug_07_1655There are two ways to look at the explosive growth of the Internet: One is to celebrate the fact that in the 15 years since it became commercially available, what began as an obscure military technology morphed into a global phenomenon that is regularly accessed by over a billion people. The other is to ask why the world’s other five billion folks aren’t online yet.

Biswas says his goal, and that of Meraki, is to “connect the next billion people.” Biswas and his engineers are almost exclusively programmers, yet Meraki doesn’t sell software. Instead it sells Wi-Fi hardware—relatively cheap, commodity hardware built by outside vendors. It’s a combination of this hardware and Meraki’s software that yields a kind of magic that Biswas believes will go viral the way few things have. His business model depends on it.

“We now have more than 1,000 networks around the world,” Biswas says, “and all that growth was through word of mouth.” Meraki doesn’t advertise, in part because Biswas’s team has been too busy to bother. “Our focus has been to create the best thing possible, and then trust that people will run with it.”

More here.