Avaak secures $10 million for nanny cams

SAN FRANCISCO (Private Equity Week) - Avaak, a San Diego, California-based provider of closed-circuit video camera technology, has raised $10 million in a Series B round of financing to expand its presence in retail outlets.

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Qualcomm Ventures, which makes strategic investments in the wireless industry, led the funding round and was joined by return investors Trinity Ventures, InterWest Partners and Leapfrog Ventures. The company has now raised $17 million in total venture capital funding.

Avaak’s low-power wireless video cameras and base station look like something out of a futuristic film from Pixar, with its white-plastic casing, soft corners and simple design. For as little as $229, and a $20 yearly service fee, users can set up their own closed-circuit video cameras and watch online what goes on in their home or office. In comparison, professional video security systems usually start at more than $1,000 to buy and install.

CEO Gioia Messinger said her company’s technology innovations are born from the market for security systems, but aren’t designed to fill that market niche.

“This is the business of pixels everywhere, being able to have cameras anywhere, view them from anywhere at any time,” she said. “If you’re worried about security, than this product is not for you.”

Instead, Messinger imagines families using the Avaak system to keep an eye on their children or babysitters, manage their elderly parents, watch their pets while at work or check out what’s going on at their second home.

Avaak is one of several startups looking to offer less-expensive consumer versions of professional security cameras that have connected with support from venture capitalists.

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Last spring, San Francisco, California-based DropCam raised an undisclosed amount of seed financing from Bessemer Ventures, Bay Partners and individual investor Mitch Kapor. The company was founded by Greg Duffy, an engineer that previously worked at email company Xobni.

Although Avaak and DropCam offer similar services, the products have distinct characteristics. Avaak sells two cameras, which run on batteries. DropCam sells one camera, which must be plugged in to operate. Avaak’s cameras require a specialized base-station to operate. DropCam’s camera can talk directly with a wireless router.

Nagraj Kashyap, vice president of Qualcomm Ventures, said in a statement announcing the funding: “Avaak has taken video monitoring to a new level of simplicity, allowing consumers to view live video on their mobile devices.”

The technology behind wireless video monitoring systems isn’t particularly new. The real step forward has been the services associated with the video cameras. Both Avaak and DropCam allow people to access video feeds online and record what happens over a number of hours.

The digitization of these feeds allows startups to analyze them with complex algorithms to do interesting things, such as track motion or identify faces. DropCam’s service can, for example, record several hours of video and send text messages to alert a subscriber of any motion that’s detected in the video feed.

Additionally, both Avaak and DropCam users can access their video feeds on Apple’s iPhone.

There are also opportunities for additional services in the future.

“We have a lot of things that we’re looking at incorporating into the product,” Messinger said. “You’re going to start seeing new product announcements with new feature sets in the coming months. We’re definitely listening to our customer base and incorporating what we’ve heard.”