Meraki Founders Launch Inaugural IoT Solution; Set To Launch Partner Program

Internet of Things startup Samsara, led by the founders of Cisco's successful Meraki business, have launched its inaugural IoT solution and is looking to onboard new partners with plans to launch a partner program in 2016.

The San Francisco-based firm released an Internet-connected sensor solution for industrial customers with wireless gateways that transmit sensor data to software in the cloud. The solution was built similar to Meraki solutions in its ease of use, deployment, scalability and being tailored to be sold through the channel, said Kiren Sekar, vice president of product management and marketing at Samsara.

"Solution providers want a product that's going to solve a need for their customers, a product they can sell profitability - preferably with recurring revenue - and they want a product that's going to be easy to sell ... Those three elements made the Meraki products successful in the channel and those are all the things we're focusing on today with Samsara," Sekar said in an interview with CRN. "We built Samsara and the product from the ground up to be very channel-friendly."

[Related: Meraki Founders Say Bye-Bye To Cisco]

Cisco's successful Meraki business is the driving force behind the networking giant's wireless growth. The company recently reported a 7 percent growth in wireless due to its Meraki business growing more than 60 percent year over year.

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The cloud-based networking provider Meraki was purchased by Cisco for $1.2 billion in 2012, but its founders left Cisco earlier this year to form Samsara. The San Francisco-based startup exited stealth mode in May, founded by Sanjit Biswas and John Bicket -- two of Meraki's three founders.

Sekar told CRN his company doesn't see Cisco as a competitor, but rather, industrial sensor vendors such as Honeywell.

Samsara's new plug-and-play solution is built on "readily available" cellular networks and cloud-hosted infrastructure that's geared around simplicity and scalability.

"It centers around our IoT gateways, which are hardware devices that are very compacted -- a little bit bigger than a deck of cards," said Sekar.

"You can plug them in and they will instantly start reporting sensor data into our current cloud service," he said. "When you deploy our gateways, you can start getting real-time operational visibility into all of your physical assets – your physical sites, remote environments, your vehicles – and do that in ... a matter a minutes."

The solution can be deployed for as low as $5,000. Sekar said it's a differentiator in the market because it can be deployed without customers needing a big upfront investment. "[Customers] don't need to set up networks, set up data centers or the type of infrastructure that other IoT products in the market require," he said.

The foundation for Meraki's success was its creation of solutions that were focused on simplicity and scalability, said Sekar. The startup is targeting businesses of all sizes – from large enterprises such as Fortune 100 companies to small businesses.

"The initial Meraki customer base was mid-market and the focus was on simplicity and as the company grew, especially after the Cisco acquisition, we saw firsthand how large enterprises were really gravitating to simplicity to a core value," said Sekar. "We found that these sets of operational problems really scale to business of all sizes … We focused on building an IoT product that has real immediate value for operations of all sizes."

Samsara is seeing a high demand for IoT, according to Sekar, while the revenue opportunities for solution providers will be "tremendous."

The startup racked up $25 million in a first-round funding in May led by Andreessen Horowitz, a multibillion-dollar venture capital firm founded by long-time Silicon Valley-based inventor and tech entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, who also site on the company's board.

As billions of previously unconnected devices become connected, IoT is expected to create a $19 trillion opportunity. The solution and services market for IoT will catapult to $1.7 trillion in 2020, according to the research firm IDC, expanding at a combined annual growth rate of 17 percent. Sekar said Samsara has had "a lot of interest from a very diverse group of partners" seeking to jump onto the IoT wave through his company.

"All of us have a lot of experience working with the channel partners as they were a core part of our business at Meraki and we have very strong relationships with some of the leading partners and solution partners out there today," he said. "We have had a lot of inbound interest from a number of different partners of all shapes and sizes and we're excited to be formalizing our first partner program."

In June, Samsara launched a private beta program deployed in several vertical industries, including manufacturers, school districts, food producers and pharmaceutical companies. Use cases for its new solution include monitoring temperatures for food and drug companies during transportation and storage, and providing real-time visibility and analytics to commercial vehicles so fleets can cut wait times for customers and save fuel by optimizing routes.