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AZ Tech Beat | October 29, 2020

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Google acquires Athena Wireless Communications – interview with CEO Eduardo Tinoco

Google acquires Athena Wireless Communications – interview with CEO Eduardo Tinoco
Tishin Donkersley

Google confirmed they have acquired telecommunications company Athena Wireless Communications based in Surprise, Arizona. Google declined to comment further on the terms of the deal.

Athena Wireless is known for their affordable and compact digital radios that have the capability of performing at fiber-like speeds.

Athena’s technology could essentially help bring high-speed Internet wirelessly to a larger population than having to lay fiber optic cable all around town. Something Google might like.

CEO Eduardo Tinoco & COO Terry McManus

CEO Eduardo Tinoco & COO Terry McManus

CEO and co-founder Eduardo Tinoco said he and co-founder and COO Terry McManus started Athena Wireless in 2009 with the objective to commercialize gigabyte point-to-point solutions at an affordable price.

Tinoco said the relationship with Google started with the tech giant being a customer of their technology and they “…tried all of our systems back in 2013. It was a long testing process and eventually became a customer of Athena Wireless. Then they became a development partner and the relationship is excellent.”

“The big selling point of these systems is that they are “Gigabit” capable,” said CFO Athena, Sam Buffington. “Think of that as the fiber optic cable without the cable.”

CFO Sam Buffington

CFO Sam Buffington

Athena has been growing at a fast pace throughout the last five years. The co-founders decided to build their company in Surprise because of the affordable living, proximity to universities for talent and Phoenix is a travel hub.

Athena started at the AZ TechCelerator in Surprise and grew to 25 employees, Tinoco said.

Athena Wireless was one of the winners of the Fall 2012 Arizona Commerce Authority Innovation Challenge, taking home a win of $250,000.

In addition, Athena completed a Series A round (2010) with private investors from Atlanta and Series B round (December 2012) with private investors in Denver – the amount and terms were undisclosed.

Digital radio

Digital radio

While champagne glasses will clink, Buffington said the road to acquisition had its lows.

“The journey now at the end of it seems nice, but we went through several times where it was pretty low, moments where money was very tight,” Buffington said.

During their growth, Athena had struggled to raise early-stage money in Arizona and had to go outside the state to feed the business, Buffington and Tinoco shared.

READ: Equity crowdfunding is open in Arizona

“The financial stress was pretty intense all the time,” Buffington said. “We were doing what the Valley of the Sun wants startups to do, but we could just never get the early-stage financing in Arizona.”

“It was always a struggle, so when Google makes an entrée, and starts the conversation, it’s difficult not to go down that path,” Buffington continued.

Athena will be moving the team to the Google campus in Mountain View by the end of 2015. Tinoco will continue to be involved as a researcher and engineer in telecommunications.

“We are all Googlers, we are now one family,” Tinoco said. “For guys like me, I’m an engineer; for an engineer, Google is the Nirvana, so this is heaven for me.”

Photos courtesy of Athena / Google 

Read more about Google Fiber here.