Mist Insists On Selling Through The Channel: Startup's $28M Funding Round Will Help Build Partner Program And Enable MSPs

Networking startup Mist Systems, founded by former Cisco executives, has closed a $28 million Series B funding round that the company says will help it build a partner program and drive sales for its MSPs.

"The new funding is going towards market developing funds, building a more formal channel program that has the traditional spiffs, but adding resources to it," said Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing at Mist, in an interview with CRN. "It's realistic for us now to launch a partner program in 2017."

Mountain View, Calif.-based Mist was named on CRN's 10 Coolest Networking Startups Of 2016 and, in June, it first discussed its plans to disrupt the wireless enterprise market via its cloud platform, dubbed Mist Intelligent Wireless Cloud, that applies data science and machine learning to transform the mobile user experiences for enterprises.

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On Wednesday, Mist unveiled it closed $28 million in financing led by GV, formerly Google Ventures, with additional funding from Cisco, Lightspeed Venture Partners and Norwest Venture Partners. The new funding will be spent on R&D, growing sales and marketing resources as well as developing a robust MSP channel.

"At the end of this year we'll have around 50 MSPs. We hope to then triple and quadruple that in 2017," said Aaron. "We're starting to put some folks in place to help give MSP the resources they need so they can sell more effectively."

Rick Tangeman, owner and president of Dayton, Ohio-based solution provider HarborLink Network, said Mist's technology is "a huge game changer from an MSP perspective."

"Mist has allows us to truly deliver a Wireless-as-a-Service platform, completely managed from our end and [it] gives us insight into the network and end user that we never had before," said Tangeman. "It allows us to be proactive. Networking has always been reactive."

The startup touts it has the first extensible, programmable microservices cloud architecture for wireless and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technologies that can adapt to user needs. The wireless platform uses machine learning to automate tasks -- like event correlation, location, and clustering -- to simplify wireless operations and deliver personalized services.

The startup has two service offerings for partners on its cloud platform: the Mist Business Critical for Wi-Fi and Mist's Virtual BLE location technology.

"The interest in the product and the services that we've created through the Mist cloud and the services and hardware are stirring all kinds of interest," said Tangeman. "You can go into a customer and now, because of the BLE pieces, you're not just saying, 'Here's Wi-Fi in your office or coffee shop' – I'm giving insights to the customer like marketing information or real-time dwelling issues."

On top of the $28 million in funding announced on Wednesday, Mist also revealed new features to its platform including BLE location services, BLE asset tracking, expanded service level experience (SLE) metrics and a one-click root cause analysis feature.

The company also launched a new BT11 enterprise-grade access point for BLE that includes an omni-directional element array for location accuracy, a dedicated radio for collecting data and indoor location services.

"We’re going to have a really good year with Mist and probably a good five years based on what we're building off of this platform," said Tangeman.

Mist was founded by CEO Sujai Hajela and CTO Bob Friday, who are both former Cisco wireless executives. The startup previous received $14.4 million in a Series A funding round this year.

Aaron said Mist's cloud platform and networking vision will make MSPs more agile in terms of delivering new services.

"If we're trying to turn wireless into a service and leverage the cloud to do that, MSPs are very strategic to what we're doing. It's a main focus of our go-to-market strategy," said Arron. "Our goal it push as much through the channel as possible."