Monday, May 23, 2022

Charlotte firm grabs $170 million to prompt in-flight internet service

Doing business — or just fooling around on the internet — on airplane flights may get a lot easier because of a Charlotte-based company’s adept use of technology. SmartSky Networks LLC raised more than $170 million for its plan to sell internet service that relies on cellphone towers, not satellites.

It is one of the largest fundraisings for a Charlotte technology company. Data-center company Peak 10 Inc. and AvidXchange, a financial technology business, have also raised more than $150 million in so-called Series B rounds, says Terri Cox, CEO of Charlotte’s Business and Innovation Growth council.

SmartSky CEO Haynes Griffin , 69, used to lead Vanguard Cellular, a pioneering Greensboro-based cellphone business acquired by AT&T in 1999.

“Cellular has built out everywhere. Now it’s time to build up,” Griffin, who is a past president of the Cellular Telephone Industry Association, said in a release.

“A significant number of customers joined our Early Bird waiting list to secure their spot at the head of the line. SmartSky and its partners have already started obtaining certification to enable installation of the service on each aircraft model, Griffin said. Initial installs will start between April and June, he added.

The latest his is SmartSky’s fifth private stock offering since it was incorporated in 2011. Other key executives, Ryan Stone and Eric Legvold, are veteran members of Charlotte’s tech community, Cox says.

Overall the company says it has raised more than $250 million from more than 45 investors. Goldman Sachs was the investment banker that led the latest round.

SmartSky was previously called Jetpool Ventures. It has a strategic partnership with Melbourne, Fla.–based Avidyne Corp., which makes computer network and safety systems for aircraft.

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