Streaming dongles are all the rage, with the likes of Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Roku Stick, and Microsoft’s Wireless Display Adapter all vying for your hard-earned dollars. So when a newcomer from a young startup enters the fray, it’s difficult to get too excited by the proposition.
But entering this crowded field is exactly what Copenhagen-based startup Airtame has done with a HDMI stick that promises full screen-mirroring from your mobile phone, tablet, or computer.
After initially seeking a mere $160,000 in crowdfunding, Airtame — one of a number of Danish startups currently gaining traction — went on to raise a whopping $1.5 million via Indiegogo, a European record. Airtame did raise the ire of some backers however, after the startup switched to a so-called “forever” funding campaign, one without set time restrictions and one that doesn’t offer a guaranteed delivery date.
Flush with this cash, Airtame has already shipped 3,000 units to its initial backers who are also participants in the public beta phase of the product.
How it works
If you’re unfamiliar with how such streaming dongles work, here’s a quick recap.
You plug the Airtame stick into the HDMI port on your TV or monitor, and download the relevant app for your device — it currently supports iOS and Android on mobile (Windows Phone coming soon), while there is a desktop version for Mac and Windows (Linux coming soon).
From the drop-down menu in the app, select which Airtame you wish to connect to, and then you can mirror your screen on the Airtame-enabled device. For now, it’s compatible with photos (JPEG and PNG), PowerPoint, Keynote, Excel, Word, PDF, Numbers, and Pages. Future updates will support video and will let you stream files stored in your cloud-based accounts, including Google Drive and Dropbox.
So far, so good — but how does this differ from, say, Chromecast, which also lets you mirror your screen, and which also has the added benefit of tight integration with the likes of Netflix, YouTube, and other video-streaming platforms? Well, it seems Airtame is putting more of a focus on the enterprise than its better-known rivals.
For starters, with Airtame you can control and manage multiple devices from a single, centralized admin dashboard. While you can do something similar via the Chromecast app, it isn’t intended for deployment across hundreds or thousands of screens within an organization. This is the scenario Airtame is aiming for — many different meeting rooms and screens, and countless laptops and mobile devices wishing to connect to display charts, pictures, graphs, and all the rest. Or you can have one distant laptop beaming content to many different screens.
Rather than competing with the likes of Chromecast, Airtame is really vying for a market currently filled with devices such as Barco’s ClickShare, a box-like wireless presentation system that lets anyone at a meeting connect to the big screen. Except ClickShare costs thousands of dollars, whereas Airtame will ship for $199. That is markedly more expensive than the $30 Chromecast, but significantly cheaper than existing big-brand enterprise devices — and it’s here where Airtame wants to make a mark.
It’s for this reason that Airtame cofounder and CEO Jonas Gyalokay reckons the company’s biggest competitor is neither Chromecast nor ClickShare — it’s the humble HDMI cable. “Enterprises that try to adopt Chromecast or Apple TV, it just doesn’t optimize well at all,” he said. “And other enterprise devices are too expensive.” So companies that currently use a good old-fashioned cord to connect their laptop to a screen is where Airtame wants to make its presence known.
The startup is bringing more than a centralized dashboard to the enterprise table though. It also offers dual Wi-Fi, which basically means you can connect directly to an Airtame access point and continue using your PC without losing your Internet connection. You can also connect directly to the Airtame from your device without Wi-Fi — though you will only be able to beam locally-stored content to the screen, of course.
These little touches are particularly helpful when a company’s Wi-Fi is congested, or if you find yourself somewhere without access to reliable Internet.
Other additions include the ability to connect your Airtame to a router via ethernet, which again is useful for a “noisy Wi-Fi environment”; it uses AES-256 encryption to protect streaming content from interception.
There’s an app for that
Just as Chromecast entices companies to build compatibly for the streaming dongle, meaning that native Netflix and YouTube smartphone apps can connect seamlessly to the big screen, Gyalokay says he envisages a similar scenario for Airtame — except it will be enterprise-focused firms instead. This could mean you’ll see firms such as Prezi, Geckoboard, Trello, Basecamp, Slack, Evernote, Salesforce and so on eventually creating “Airtame apps.”
Throughout VentureBeat’s conversation with Airtame, there was little doubt that the company was laser-focused on infiltrating enterprises — “Chromecast wants to own the living room, and Airtame wants to own the meeting room,” explained Gyalokay. But he was also adamant that the consumer realm wasn’t off-limits. However, at $199, it’s nearly 7 times more expensive than a Chromecast, so I’m just not sure it will find a huge market there.
Based on our tests in a home environment, Airtame worked well, and we were able to mirror phones and laptop screens easily. But without full video/audio support yet, it’s difficult to really judge this device — it’s aiming big, but without a fully featured device available, this will have to be filed under “one to watch” for now.
In addition to its equity-free funding success through Indiegogo, Airtame also just raised $1.4 million in seed funding earlier this month. So crowdfunding was used to prove demand for the product (and also garner capital, of course) and gain feedback, which was then used as leverage for more traditional investors.
“The VC money will help us get on the market faster, with a better product,” said Gyalokay. “It will enable us to stabilize the product on all platforms and streamline the manufacturing process.”
In short, Airtame should now have enough financial clout to take things to the next level, with an expected public shipping date of May.