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Monzoon finds strategic investor

Monzoon Networks, a Swiss pioneer in developing Wireless LAN "hotspots" has received a cash injection in exchange for a minority shareholding from Bern-based Togewa Holding Company, the new name for the mobile service empire being built by former Swisscom executives, Walter Heutschi, Tobias Waldner, Géraldine Philippe and Toni Stadelmann.

This content was published on February 24, 2002 - 07:57

The amount of the investment is undisclosed but will provide liquidity for the coming two years, at which point Monzoon expects to become profitable, according to Monzoon's, spokesperson, Felix Thommen. Walter Heutschi is now a Monzoon board member.

Monzoon was one of dozens of startups that had to change their business models last year when the telecommunications market crashed. The startup dropped its idea of being a hotspot operator to becoming a "white label" or third party hotspot service provider. Its aim is to sell its services to telecommunications operators who would sell the networks and related services directly to airports, hotels and other campus-like clients.

The startup was originally funded by Atlas Ventures, a top tier venture capital investor, who was prepared to back the company for the second round. But Monzoon rejected the deal. Apparently Atlas wanted too big a stake for its money and the founders were "just not ready to let go of the majority share of the company," says Thommen.

Togewa's investment in Monzoon is clearly strategic. Its managers have their eye on developing new roaming markets. Through Comfone, it is already running a successful GSM roaming business and more recently it has become one of the only two dozen or so firms worldwide running a GPRS roaming exchange.

Roaming between "hotspots" and GSM networks is expected to be the next fast growing mobile data market, providing a transition to 3G networks.

Other companies owned by the Togewa Group besides Comfone, a GSM network roaming broker, are Togewa swissnet Holding, t-net, which specialises in mobility management and roaming optimisation, and Togewa consult.

by Valerie Thompson

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