Months after its previous funding round, “internet of things” startup Esper Enterprises Inc. today announced that it has raised an additional $60 million from an investor group led by Insight Partners.
Seattle-based Esper provides a platform that makes Android-powered IoT fleets easier to build and maintain. Android, best known as a mobile operating system, can also be found in numerous other devices such as smart home gadgets and industrial gear. At companies with thousands of IoT devices or more, manually managing the hardware often isn’t practical, which creates the need for software products that can ease the task.
One of the core components of Esper’s platform is a custom Android distribution dubbed Esper Enhanced Android. It can run apps on a device’s read-only memory, which prevents hackers from modifying application code. Esper says built-in breach prevention mechanisms fend off cyberattacks targeting vulnerabilities in the Android kernel, the operating system’s core set of components.
According to the startup, its customized Android distribution also eases other IoT maintenance tasks. Esper releases updates to its operating system every quarter, which frees up hardware makers from having to manually perform patching. For companies building products with specialized capabilities, Esper Enhanced Android provides the option to integrate external hardware components that aren’t supported by the default version of Android.
Esper ships its operating system as part of devices made by manufacturing partners. The devices range from chip modules, which can be used for product development, to ready-to-use systems such as tablets and self-service kiosks.
Developers write apps for Android devices using a coding toolkit called Android Studio. Esper offers an Android Studio extension that, according to the startup, allows software teams to release applications to devices directly from the interface in which they write their code. A cloud-based simulation environment enables developers to test their software on virtual Android devices before rolling it out to production.
After a device is fully set up, Esper customers can use a collection of application programming interfaces provided by the startup to carry out day-to-day maintenance tasks. The APIs enable developers to collect diagnostics data from devices, update the software running them and add or remove apps. Companies can also use the APIs to implement cybersecurity rules.
Esper says market reception for its offering has been positive. The startup claims to have quadrupled revenues year-over-year in 2021, though it didn’t share absolute numbers. According to Esper, more than 2,000 developers at over 200 companies use its products to manage IoT devices.
“Our biggest opportunity right now is getting the word out to more enterprises that Esper exists,” said Esper co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Yadhu Gopalan (pictured, fourth from the right). “Our customers tell us that we are completely resetting their assumptions about what is possible. It’s truly rewarding to see the light bulb go off when a customer realizes all of the infrastructure they no longer have to build themselves.”
Historically, hardware makers often had to create their own custom software to manage tasks such as releasing updates to their devices. By reducing the need for custom software development, IoT management offerings such as Esper’s platform can lower the cost of bringing products to market. In the process, Esper also promises to make product development faster, which means that hardware makers can roll out new devices more often.
As the number of IoT systems deployed in the enterprise continues to grow, more tech firms are joining the fray with offerings for easing connected device management. Development tooling giant JFrog Ltd. last month acquired Upswift Ltd., a startup with a platform that simplifies the process of updating connected devices. Earlier, IoT cybersecurity specialist Armis Inc. closed a $125 million funding round.
Esper said it will use the capital from its latest funding round mainly to expand customer acquisition efforts. Overall, the startup has raised $100 million to date.