The three founders of the UC Berkeley spinout Endaga have joined Facebook.
Endaga was founded in 2014 with $1.2 million in seed funding and a mission to bring cellular access to the more than 1 billion people worldwide who don’t have it. The company’s roots are in UC Berkeley Computer Science Professor (and Google Vice President of Infrastructure) Eric Brewer’s research group, Technology and Infrastructure for Emerging Regions (TIER). Three of Brewer’s graduate students and postdoctoral scholars, Kurtis Heimerl, Shaddi Hasan, and Kashif Ali, founded Endaga to help small rural communities build and maintain their own wireless networks—what they called a “cellular network in a box.” The CEO, Lance Condray, will also be moving to Facebook.
“We founded Endaga to bring this vision of community cellular networks to everyone who still lacks access to network connectivity worldwide,” read a statement on Endaga’s website. “Over the past year, our team has worked hard to empower communities in this way, and we believe Facebook’s mission to connect the world aligns perfectly with this vision. We’re excited to continue finding ways to connect people as we work with the amazing team at Facebook. As part of this, members of our team will be joining Facebook and we will wind down our business operations.”
Both the hardware and software invented by Endaga—and its precursor, the UCB Village Base Station project—are ingenious. To date, thousands of people have received cellular access through Endaga.
The project has received a variety of university supports, including three years of funding from Development Impact Lab, which enabled the first Village Base Station pilot in Papua, Indonesia and a second pilot in Oaxaca, Mexico. The Development Impact Lab is currently supporting an evaluation of an upcoming community cellular deployment in Pakistan.
Heimerl, Hasan, Ali, and Condray are exemplars of a new generation of social impact-driven scientists called “development engineers,” a field being incubated at UC Berkeley. Following a one-year post at Facebook, Heimerl plans to join the University of Washington as a faculty member in the computer science department. Hasan, Endaga’s CTO and co-founder, is a PhD candidate in computer science at UC Berkeley and has been involved in deploying a Village Base Station cellular network in Oaxaca Mexico to test “GSM Whitespaces” technology. The third co-founder, Ali, has spent the last year as a Development Impact Lab-supported postdoc, focusing on building low-cost, low-power and open source hardware designs and firmware for Village Base Station components and on the social impact evaluation of cellular networks in the forthcoming deployment in Shimshal Valley, Pakistan.
“The community-based approach to rural connectivity is significantly lower cost and thus viable even for the last billion people without access,” said Professor Brewer of Endaga’s work. “It has the chance, especially with Facebook’s help, to really improve the quality of life for a vast number of people around the world.”