I founded Antenova in 1999 and it has grown into a profitable fabless manufacturer of innovative mass market antenna technology. Antenova antennas have been used in the hundreds of millions in Smart Phones (RIM Blackberry), Laptops (Dell), and phones (Samsung), providing up to seven bands of connectivity across 2G/3G/4G, WiFi, Bluetooth and GPS. I led the protection and transfer of IPR from two Universities, recruited the initial executive team, and exited, returning a profit to the Angel investors.
Academic researchers at Sheffield and Brisbane Universities had been working on Dielectric Resonator Antennas, which from the perspective of a radio wave are almost magical devices, able to shrink space by a factor of 10 or more, a bit like the Tardis. They were originally discovered in the 1920′s but understanding how they worked had to wait until the advent of powerful computers and finite element analysis (FEA) software in the 1980′s. The researchers had discovered how to use novel resonance modes to make DRAs into miniature electronically-steerable antennas. Conventional mobile antennas transmit energy in all directions (wasting most of it and polluting the band) and receive from all directions (thus mixing the signal they are listening to with interference from other directions too). The new DRA promised a practical way to deliver spatial diversity.
My angels and I were excited by the potential applications for this in the field of mobile devices. But having experimented with a variety of possible market niches, including mobile phone base-stations, the company achieved real market traction when it applied its expertise to less exotic challenges – ones just ahead of the current state of the art. As mobile devices shrunk, manufacturers were faced with a combination of challenges which Antenova was uniquely able to address: small antennas that would not “detune” when placed in close proximity to the head, and that could support multiple bands in a small space.
The spatial diversity revolution still lies largely ahead of us (we’re seeing the beginnings of it now with MIMO WiFi access points and some 4G).