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Jasper: Pioneering the Internet of Things

Jim Goetz on behalf of Sequoia

Like most overnight success stories, this one didn’t happen overnight. It started back in 2004, a lifetime ago in mobile tech. The iPhone was still three years away, the fastest bandwidth for mobile data peaked at about 100kbs, and mobile phones basically made calls, unless you owned the defining status symbol of the era, a Blackberry, in which case you could check your email. No Instagram, no mobile web, no Google Maps.

While the rest of us were just starting to dream of what would happen once everyone was connected, Jasper founder, Jahangir Mohammed, pioneered what we now take for granted. He envisioned a world where not only all humans were connected, so were the machines.

Everywhere Jahangir looked, he saw the potential for connected devices: traffic lights, vending machines, and cars were obvious targets, but so were other concerns closer to home. One day, Jahangir saw a mother going for a walk with her rambunctious four-year-old son and she had him tethered to her with a leash. It wasn’t because she was mean—she just wanted to keep him safe. Jahangir immediately imagined how small machines in the child’s shoes or backpack could keep mother and son connected. This was years before Nike+ or any of the Find My Phone apps. But instead of building any particular device, Jahangir and his co-founders, Amit Gupta and Daniel Collins, decided to build the fabric that would connect it all together.

Their vision of Machine to Machine networks (coined The Internet of Things, by Kevin Ashton) mapped out what it would take to build a system where billions of machines could talk directly to other machines through an efficient and economically viable network.

At Jasper’s first visit to Sequoia, Gaurav Garg (then a Sequoia partner, now an alumnus), immediately embraced and championed Jahangir’s vision for global machine to machine connectivity. But there was just one problem—the GSM mobile networks had been built and priced with the assumption that they would be connecting people to other people, and it just didn’t pencil out to pay $50/month or more every time you wanted to connect a device. There had to be a better way, but it would take time, ingenuity and artful navigation.

From the archives

Here are three slides pulled from Jasper's Series A original pitch deck for Machine2Machine networks.

From the first day, the team faced enormous challenges. For example, to ensure global connectivity they had to create a carrier-agnostic global SIM that could shift between carriers to optimize for coverage, reliability or price. And the challenges weren’t just technical—a big part of the solution was to find the right partners and to prove value to many different industries all at once. Jasper’s crucial insight was that the Internet of Things isn’t really about building things as much as it’s about building services to connect things to the internet.

Bruce Dunlevie of Benchmark, whose focused intellect has been instrumental on Jasper’s board, likes to joke that Sequoia has a secret playbook to train investing partners. While I can’t confirm or deny whether such a playbook exists, if it did, it would surely contain a T E N A C I T Y section on Jahangir and the entire team at Jasper, who stuck to a vision for a over decade, quietly building a system that will power our connected future. The three founders started 12-years ago with a vision, 14 slides and 3 references. Today the team has achieved global reach and uncontested market leadership.

Congratulations to Jahangir Mohammed, Amit Gupta, Daniel Collins and the entire Jasper team on today’s news that they are joining Cisco for an estimated $1.4 billion. We’ve seen first-hand how valuable a partnership with Cisco can be, from Don Valentine’s investment in Cisco back in 1987 to an ongoing relationship through companies such as Crescendo, Meraki, SourceFire, and OpenDNS—Cisco has proven to be a place where founders can thrive. We are thrilled that Jasper will become an integral part of Cisco’s ambitious plans for connecting devices, people and businesses everywhere. We can’t wait to see what they build together.

Jim Goetz on behalf of Sequoia