activeRF was my first startup, founded when I returned to Cambridge UK from Silicon Valley in 1998. Having spent my career until then in computer engineering (software and silicon), I’d become very interested in the potential of the new category of “short-range” radio devices. Operating in unlicensed spectrum, for a parts cost of just a few dollars, and able to communicate tens of metres, the main early application for these was in car key fobs. But it seemed to me that the potential for small, cheap devices able to talk locally was almost limitless, and I was keen to explore the possibilities.
I learned an enormous amount not only about the wireless space (we innovated in active and passive RFID, and in in-building location technology) but also about starting a company: building and leading a team, mapping the market, sales and marketing, and raising both angel and venture capital finance.
In 2003 activeRF was acquired by Gatekeeper. But back in 1999, while I was trying to find a solution to a particular activeRF problem requiring directional antennas, I encountered some interesting researchers and this led us to spin-out Antenova. So I’m a fan of the general idea of spin-outs, as a way for the parent company to retain focus while exploring new upside.