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Viaphoton raises $80M to disrupt fiber manufacturing

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Viaphoton, a fiber connectivity provider, has raised $80 million to accelerate fiber production at the edge. The company has developed an innovative manufacturing process that combines mass customization, data center engineering automation and robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline fiber optics equipment manufacturing. 

Existing fiber equipment manufacturing vendors focus on reducing the cost of components. Cofounders Baber Abbas (CEO) and Wasif Khan (CFO) started Viaphoton in 2020 to address the growing need to customize fiber connectivity at the edge. They focused on combining mass customization techniques pioneered for consumer services with new design tools to help bring innovative design approaches to data infrastructure designers. 

Viaphoton’s approach helps infrastructure builders accurately describe their unique needs, which can be produced in weeks compared to the industry norm of six months to a year. Abbas told VentureBeat, “We bring engineering closer to the customer, increasing speed and flexibility.”

Mass customization for engineering

Global fiber connectivity within data centers, 5G networks and broadband is growing rapidly. Last-generation copper-based networks cannot keep pace with the bandwidth and latency demands of modern applications such as autonomous vehicles, streaming video and edge computing. Over the next decade, much of the data infrastructure will be upgraded to fiber connected directly to end devices.

However, infrastructure providers such as telcos, cable operators and cloud providers struggle with procuring the precise fiber configurations for a particular use case. This is an even more significant challenge with edge deployments, since they vary more than traditional data center applications. 

Creating a new fiber configuration requires combining various numbers and lengths of fiber with different types of connectors for a given use case. It is possible to produce a particular configuration much cheaper and more quickly in a factory. In theory, installers can manually cut and splice fiber together in the field, but this method is time-consuming and prone to errors.

Infrastructure providers had to either specify their particular design months in advance or align their design construction process with the existing configurations on offer. Viaphoton shortens the time required to start producing a new configuration to a few weeks, making it possible for infrastructure providers to customize designs for a new build. 

For example, the company has built out new tools for infrastructure design and product configuration it claims can reduce the time to design the fiber architecture for a data center from four to six weeks to only a few hours. 

A growing need

Trinity Capital led the latest investment round, bringing the Viaphoton’s total investment to $100 million to date, including $20 million in equity, $50 million in mezzanine debt and $30 million in senior working capital debt. The company went from almost zero revenue at the beginning of 2021 to more than $40 million of annualized revenue by Q4 of 2021. 

Markets and Markets predicts the fiber optic market will grow from $4.3 billion in 2019 to $6.9 billion by 2024. Competitors include companies like Corning, Prysmian, Finisar and Sumitomo. 

Abbas told VentureBeat they plan to use the investment to grow their technology platform, increase operational capacity, increase sales capacity and expand into Europe. Viaphoton currently has 130 staff members and plans to add another by the end of the year.

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