Particle raises $40M Series C to connect the unconnected

Zach Supalla
Oct 30, 2019 · 5 min read

It’s 2019, and sometimes it feels like we’re living in the future. 3 billion people are carrying around supercomputers in our pockets. Your car can drive itself. Your watch will automatically call 911 if you’re knocked unconscious. Our lives are becoming increasingly digital, and the technology that surrounds us is becoming more ubiquitous and more intelligent every day.

But, as William Gibson famously said, “The future is already here — it’s just not that evenly distributed.” As consumers, we’re surrounded by futuristic technology. But if you step outside of consumer-land and into traditional industries like manufacturing, logistics, and energy, you’ll encounter a very different world.

The decades-old manufacturers that lead traditional industries are beginning to experience major shifts in technology — but often as the disrupted rather than the disruptor. Autonomous driving, for instance, has been pioneered by one car manufacturer (Tesla, who operates more like a software company than any traditional car manufacturer) and about a handful of well-capitalized software companies (Waymo, Zoox, Uber, Lyft). Traditional car manufacturers have been trying to play catch-up. GM bought Cruise, an autonomous driving start-up, for $1Bn in 2016 when they had only 40 employees. BMW and Daimler went in on autonomous driving together through a joint venture that they capitalized with a cool $1Bn.

And cars aren’t the only area where traditional manufacturers are playing catch-up. Honeywell is still desperately trying to make a halfway decent smart thermostat, eight years after the Nest Learning Thermostat hit the market. Assa Abloy, owners of Yale and other big lock brands, acquired August Home and their smart locks in 2017. GE invested billions in GE Digital before deciding to spin it off.

Although the world we live in is becoming increasingly digital, we’re still surrounded by analog machines that we use to heat our homes and protect our crops and get from place to place. The companies that make and distribute these machines are, more often than not, analog too. How do they not get left behind?

Particle: democratizing the Internet of Things

Particle is an Internet of Things platform. We sell our customers chips with wireless radios and tiny computers called microcontrollers that run our edge computing stack — which we call Device OS — and connect to our Device Cloud. We handle security, scalability, and software updates. Our customers can manage their fleet of IoT devices and the streams of data flowing in and out of those devices through our Device Console. We provide a complete tech stack to power IoT products.

With Particle, any company can bring an IoT product to market. You don’t need millions of dollars to invest in tech. You don’t need networking experts or security experts or antenna design experts. You just need a machine to connect, and a reason to connect it.

Our customers have been developing and launching IoT products on the Particle platform since 2013, when we launched our first hardware development kit. We quickly became the most widely-used IoT development platform, and when we raised our Series B in 2017, I wrote an article on Particle and its role in the emerging Internet of Things. At that point, many Particle-powered IoT products were getting to market, but it was still early days for a lot of our customers.

Fast forward to 2019, our customers have grown from early innovators to leaders in their industries. A few examples:

  • Opti is preventing city flooding through its intelligent stormwater management system in 41 cities around the world; their connected solution moves millions of gallons of storm runoff to ensure sewage systems aren’t overloaded.
  • Jacuzzi brought their connected spa product, SmartTub, to market in less than six months to provide a better experience for their consumers and to help them save on their energy bill; they now have thousands of connected spas in the market.
  • Micromobility (connected electric bikes and scooters) has become the fastest-growing market in IoT, with Particle at its core. We powered some of the very first micromobility products in the market, and have at this point connected roughly 100,000 connected bikes and scooters managed by micromobility companies around the world.
  • The Air National Guard is using our customer Dynamis’ asset tracking solutions with its first responders in public emergencies. This provides real-time data for more efficient coordination with reduced time and cost in critical situations.

Particle exists to connect the unconnected; we are in the business of helping to connect machines, vehicles and assets that were never designed to be connected in the first place. Our success can be measured by our customers’ growth; the average fleet of IoT products on our platform has grown by 70% since the beginning of the year, and Particle’s revenue has grown 150% year-over-year.

In order to continue expanding our footprint and growing the company, we’ve raised a $40 million Series C, led by Qualcomm Ventures and Energy Impact Partners.

Introducing Particle’s Series C investors

Qualcomm Ventures was a natural fit for Particle because Qualcomm makes a lot of the technology that is embedded deep within IoT products, which are running on the same wireless networks as our smartphones. At the same time, connecting a machine is different than connecting a smartphone; while the radio might be the same, the tech stack on top of it is extremely different. We’re excited to be working with Qualcomm to bring their world-class technology into a market with very different needs.

Energy Impact Partners makes investments in the future of energy, and our vision to bring the physical world online will dramatically change how energy is generated, transmitted, and consumed. The products that we connect — from air conditioners to hot tubs to dental compressors to EV chargers — are some of the biggest consumers of energy in their respective environments. By connecting these machines, we can reduce energy waste and provide better information to match energy generation with energy consumption.

We’re also excited that all our major investors from previous raises are continuing to invest in Particle’s growth: Root Ventures, Bonfire Ventures, Industry Ventures, Spark Capital, OATV, Green D Ventures, Counterpart Ventures, and SOSV all participated in the Series C raise.

The Internet of Things is a complicated, immature landscape, with thousands of companies big and small working to transform their industries through connectivity and intelligence. Particle is here to help; we’re here to empower the next generation of IoT companies and bring the physical world online to fundamentally change how traditional industries operate.

And if you like what we’re up to — we’re hiring!

Thanks to Meghan Murphy and Jeffrey Lee

Zach Supalla

Written by

Founder/CEO of Particle (Internet of Things platform). I make things to make things.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade