AirTight Networks Adds Top Exec Talent In Bid To Make Wi-Fi More Social

AirTight Networks, a vendor that's aiming to jump-start the so-called "social Wi-Fi" trend, has added two seasoned IT industry executives to help lead the charge.

Rick Wilmer, a 27-year technology industry veteran, joined AirTight Networks this month as chief operating officer. He spent the previous three years as CEO at Leyden Energy, a lithium ion battery startup, and has also held vice president of operations roles at Aruba Networks and Seagate.

Mike Anthofer, a 28-year industry veteran, also joined AirTight Networks this month as chief financial officer. He spent the previous four years as executive vice president and CFO at Tessera Technologies, a firm that licenses chip making technology to semiconductor vendors.

Both Wilmer and Anthofer have worked at venture-backed startups and been part of initial public offerings, experience that could come in handy at AirTight, which has raised $46.8 Million in four rounds since its founding in 2002.

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"AirTight is relatively small from my perspective, but I saw this as a chance to jump into a company that's poised for growth," Anthofer told CRN. He said he plans to help get AirTight to the next level of growth by ensuring that the company uses good financial planning and judgment.

Anthofer wouldn't comment on whether he's been brought in to help the company figure out an exit strategy.

"The caliber of their engineering and technology talent is impressive," Wilmer said of AirTight. "I believe this team has the potential to do something remarkable in the enterprise Wi-Fi space."

AirTight is pitching social Wi-Fi as a way for customers -- like retail outlets and restaurants -- to turn their data into insights they can use to boost business, Anita Pandey, vice president of global market at AirTight Networks, told CRN.

With social Wi-Fi, organizations provide customers with free Wi-Fi access and get anonymous data about their movements within a store. If customers are willing to log into an access point using their Facebook or LinkedIn credentials, they get additional benefits like special coupons and membership in loyalty programs.

AirTight sells wireless access points with intrusion prevention technology built-in, but the analytics piece is something customers can use to fine-tune their businesses, Pandey said.

For example, some restaurants have hooked up an AirTight access point and immediately were able to see how long customers were staying on average.

One customer, armed with this data, sent wait staff to tables to ask customers if they'd like another drink after they'd been there for around 30 minutes. That small change amounted to an additional $30,000 in annual revenue, according to Pandey.

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AirTight's technology is cloud based and doesn't use a hardware controller, so customers can get up and running without shelling out a bunch of money up front. AirTight's product were built from the ground up for managed service providers, according to Pandey.

Since switching to a channel led model last year, AirTight now does more than 50 percent of its business through partners, many of them focused on specific industry verticals, said Pandey.

Scott Henson, president of POS Technical, an Anaheim, Calif.-based firm that has been an AirTight partner for the last two years, has come away impressed with the vendor's technology and support.

POS Technical uses AirTight's technology in projects that involve replacing point-of-sale order terminals at retail outlets and restaurants with tablets. "We needed to make sure we had an access point that was secure for PCI compliance," he said.

POS Technical also uses AirTight for customers that want to provide social Wi-Fi, Henson said.

AirTight also has its access points in more than 17,000 retail locations for Yum! Brands, a restaurant company that operates Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC and other fast food outlets. In July 2013, AirTight hired Kevin McCauley, manager of IT infrastructure for Yum! Brands, to lead its retail market development.

AirTight's most recent funding was a $10 Million Series D in July 2013 from Siemens Venture Capital, Granite Ventures, Trident Capital, Walden International, CMEA Capital and Blueprint Ventures according to Crunchbase.