Formed to apply metamaterials technology to the terrestrial communications market, Pivotal Commware announced it raised $17 million in an initial round of funding. The Thermo Companies and DIG Investment were lead investors, joined by Bill Gates, Lux Capital, the family office of Barry Sternlicht and others.

Pivotal, the fourth spin-out from Intellectual Ventures (IV), aims to develop communications products that use holographic beam forming (HBF). Pivotal spun out in 2016 as the exclusive licensee of IV's metamaterials technology for terrestrial communications markets such as defense, cellular and "access in motion," meaning planes, cars, ships, trains and drones. Pivotal's HBF technology combines microsecond switching with low cost, size, weight and power (C-SWaP) and rapid fabrication cycles using simple, inexpensive components.

Pivotal has been generating revenue for over a year as prime contractor to an air-to-ground, in-flight communications service provider.

Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures, said, "The promise of metamaterials is to completely change nearly every aspect of electronic communications, and Pivotal has taken another step toward making that promise a reality. HBF is the ultimate software-defined antenna able to improve communications products across a wide range of applications."

The large opportunity for Pivotal is radio access networks. Pivotal has generated significant 4G and 5G interest from and field-tested with tier 1 operators. Globalstar, a mobile satellite service provider with terrestrial spectrum holdings, is working with Pivotal to be best positioned to leverage the Pivotal technology into future service offerings over its spectrum.

Jay Monroe, CEO of The Thermo Companies and majority shareholder of satellite company Globalstar, said, "I'm very excited to be investing in Brian Deutsch and his talented team. Thermo's capital is currently focused on telecom infrastructure via spectrum and satellite with Globalstar and fiber through FiberLight, LLC and holdings in Level 3 Communications, Inc. We see what Brian and the Pivotal team are doing as a significant component to future networks and look forward to the potential of this standalone investment as well as the integrated benefits with our other telecom investments."