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U Beam Banks $10M For Ultrasound Wireless Power, Adding new COO & CFO

Six years ago ,when Meredith Perry, 25, started studying astrobiology at the University of Pennsylvania, her career goal was to eventually find life on other planets. Instead, Ms. Perry accidentally stumbled upon something even more exciting: the ability to charge portable electronics, like cellphones and laptops, wirelessly using ultrasound.

To do this, Ms. Perry created a technology that can take electricity, convert it into sound and send that audio through the air over ultrasound. Then a receiver attached to a portable electronic device catches the sound and converts it back into electricity.

The technology makes it possible for a device to move freely around a room, in a pocket or purse, while constantly charging.

Ms. Perry’s company, uBeam, announced on Wednesday that it took an early prototype concept of this technology, first developed for Ms. Perry’s college innovation competition, and turned it into a fully functional prototype that the company now plans to build for consumers.

“This is the only wireless power system that allows you to be on your phone and moving around a room freely while you’re device is charging,” Ms. Perry said in an interview. “It allows for a Wi-Fi-like experience of charging; with everything else you have to be in close range of a transmitter.”

The uBeam charging stations will be thin, measuring no more than 5 millimeters thick. These transmitters could be tacked to walls like wallpaper or made into decorative art to beam electricity to devices. Smartphones and laptops could then be equipped with thin receivers able to convert audio and charge the devices.

Early prototypes required enormous, non-portable receivers. But now Perry says “We’ve reached a natural inflection point as a company where our focus is shifting from small-scale prototype development to large-scale production of product for the masses as we approach our launch.” If it works, the ramifications of ultrasound transduction charging could go far beyond powering phones. It could cut the cords off home appliances and more.

That’s why uBeam’s first $3.2 million seed round came from top-name investors like Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund, Ludlow Ventures, CrunchFund (run by TechCrunch’s founder), Troy Carter, Shawn Fanning and Mark Cuban. uBeam followed that with a $10 million Series A in October 2014 from existing investors and new lead Upfront Ventures. And now it’s got another $10m

The new COO Devine will give uBeam experience navigating the manufacturing process as it moves into the execution phase. He was VP of supply chain management at Cisco and has 30 years of experience. Meanwhile, new CFO Hushen handled nine acquisitions while leading finance teams for Fortune 500 companies. I’ve heard uBeam has spoken with both Samsung and Apple, so whether there’s partnership or ;A potential, Hushen’s skills will come in handy.

Now the question will be just how uBeam launches and who helps. I’ve heard Starbucks has been in extensive talks to become a strategic investor, as have Virgin airlines, Starwood Hotels, and major fast food brands. They could potentially outfit their stores, planes, or hotels with uBeam transmitters, hand out the charging cases, and use wireless power to lure in customers.

The way we live our lives is subtly coerced by our desperate need to ration charge. We’ve become subtle slaves to the electron. But uBeam could break the chains. and will bring a new meaning to smart home communities.

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