Aira, a tech startup based in Chandler, has announced a $12 million Series Seed funding round that will help the company continue to pursue its mission to revolutionize wireless charging.
The first investor for this round was Motherson Innovations Company Limited, the emerging technologies arm of the Motherson Group, a Tier 1 global automotive supplier based in India. The rest of the money came from several Arizona-based investors.
The fact that a significant amount of the investment came from local executives and investors is evidence that Arizona capital seems to be growing. Lack of capital has historically been a concern of Arizona entrepreneurs.
Jawad Ahsan, CFO of Axon, was one of these Arizona investors, and he’s now been appointed to Aira’s board of directors. The appointment of Jawad is one of the reasons Aira is at a major inflection point, according to Jake Slatnick, co-founder and CEO of Aira.
“We are incredibly excited to have him,” Slatnick told AZ Tech Beat.
Aira is designed to revolutionize wireless charging by making it more functional and flexible.
Slatnick said that when wireless charging was initially announced by Samsung in 2012, he couldn’t believe it — the future had finally come! But when Slatnick finally got his hands on a wireless charger a few years later, he was underwhelmed. He hated how the wireless phone chargers required a specific orientation and placement, and that’s when he thought he could do wireless charging better.
Slatnick wanted to develop wireless charging without the hassle. He envisioned being able to charge a phone, tablet or other device by just setting it on a table or nightstand.
Slatnick needed a technical co-founder to help him build the technology and he remembered a guy named Eric Goodchild that he’d met through a community of tech entrepreneurs he was part of at ASU’s polytechnic campus.
Slatnick considers himself very lucky to have connected with Goodchild, who he described as an “engineering enthusiast.” That might be an understatement.
Slatnick said that Goodchild’s house looked more like a lab than anything else. And according to Slatnick, Goodchild is one of the leading experts on Tesla coils, which were initially developed in the late 1800s by Nikola Tesla. Oh yeah, and Goodchild currently holds the Guinness World Record for the World’s most powerful Bi-Polar Tesla Coil.
Slatnick said that these Tesla coils are the foundation of wireless power and the same underlying method we use to charge phones today. They’re also the basis for Aira’s patented FreePower wireless charging.
Slatnick and Goodchild joined forces and founded Aira in 2017. Since then, the company’s been focused on research and development. Aira’s FreePower wireless charging was developed during that time and the company has over 80 patent assets.
Then, in 2019, the two founders landed on Shark Tank, where they deftly negotiated $500k for 15% stake in a three-way deal with Kevin O’Leary, Mark Herjavec and Lori Greiner. Slatnick said “it’s incredible” working with the three Sharks, who sealed the deal with Aira during a significant growth phase for the company.
With this new seed funding, the company will be able to transition from R&D to production. Aira is in the process of securing contracts with leading tech companies, furniture makers and automotive manufacturers.
The money will also help support the company through rapid growth over the next year or so. The company has 20 employees now, but it plans to hire between 30-50 people over the next year.
Slatnick loves Arizona and sees significant benefits to building a business here.
“Arizona is an incredible hub for engineering and innovation,” he said. “There is an incredible ecosystem of engineers” from what he called “deep tech,” meaning people who build the stuff that is used to build tech essentials like phones and computers.
He said they’ve already been able to get remarkable talent from some of the best companies out there from Arizona’s “huge talent pool.”
The company plans to prioritize hiring locals. Most of the company is from here and allowing remote work isn’t so easy if you’re a hardware company (which Slatnick said they are).
Slatnick and his team are excited to enter the next phase of growth and watch how wireless charging continues to evolve.
“Over the next decade we are going to see a major shift in wireless charging,” said Slatnick.