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Internet of Things: BKON Connect tacks toward Seed and Series A raises
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Richard Graves

Update: BKON reported to SEC 2 Nov. 2015 that it's raised nearly $1MM capital. The original VNC story of May 6, 2015, is below-Ed.

BKON Connect is crossing that ocean known as the Internet of Things, navigating toward both UriBeacon and iBeacon markets, and preparing to bring investors aboard.

Nashville-based serial entrepreneur Richard Graves, who is co-founder and CEO of BKON, told VNC he aims to raise about $500K in Seed Capital near-term, followed in autumn by a Series A round.

The magnitude of the A-round will be determined in coming weeks by the market's adoption of BKON's hardware (with development kits and API) and its as-yet undisclosed content-management Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) offerings, which are due for release soon, said Graves.

Globally, a still-small group of beacon protocols have been created for myriad uses: For example, shopper-intercept for retailers, promotions, content management; and, among others, asset location and tracking (from "keyfinders" to enterprise asset management).

Roundly classified as IoT (Internet of Things), the space is now often described as "the Physical Web," the global network that connects people, places and things. Graves says BKON helps people "surf the Physical Web," by using apps or a mobile browser to interact with the tiny, battery-powered wireless radios in beacon devices. There's evidence of consensus that the global economic impact of beacon technologies will be mind-boggling orders-of-magnitude greater than the impact of the Internet.

Chris Blanz

In March 2014, Graves co-founded BKON Connect LLC with serial Tech entrepreneur brand/design-oriented Chris Blanz (think Cabedge interactive, now part of Atiba Software); Leigh Fogle, who also owns Fogle Fine Art and CureativeContent, which advises corporations regarding their art purchases; and, Beat Zenerino, a Swiss-born technologist who is BKON's CTO.

Graves said BKON has 10 FTE staff and is earning revenue from hardware and ancillary offerings for both UriBeacon (the open-sourced browser-linked solution introduced by Google) and iBeacon (Apple's category-opening mobile-app protocol).

Graves said he believes the UriBeacon market -- which does not require BKON customers to spend heavily on development and promotion of apps -- represents a greater business opportunity for BKON than the iBeacon segment, which is currently a better fit for enterprise-scale adopters with deeper pockets than must potential customers.

VNC research suggests that direct or indirect BKON competitors in the sector could include Gimbal (Qualcomm), Blesh, Estimote, Kontakt and Twocanoes, among others. Also active in the beacon/IoT space are Tennessee-based BLEON, which is focused personal and enterprise asset tracking; and, HavenLock, an IoT-friendly home security system.

Graves, a 56-year-old native of Jackson, Tenn., said he's confident he'll be able to calibrate the Series A target effectively, partly because of his earlier success in raising capital.

BKON management is well advised: For legal, it relies on attorneys with Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, and from intellectual-property specialist Patterson; Elliot Davis Decosimo handles its accounting; and, the company banks with Pinnacle Financial Partners.

It recently added marketing advisor FLO {Thinkery}, a subsidiaryof FLO.co, said Graves, adding that BKON staff handle its Web presence. It has also turned to Nashville-based brand-experience strategist and writer Michael Dukes, Blanz previously told VNC.

Following news in 2013 of Apple's introduction of its iBeacon protocol, Graves said he immediately began developing an array of business plans to capitalize on the new market, and speculatively registered hundreds of Web addresses (URLs) in Real Estate and other sectors.

Earlier in his career, Graves led a raise of nearly $18MM for DTI Networks, a developer and manufacturer of voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) switches, which he, his father Curtis Graves and others created by acquiring the assets of a company that ceased operations, he explained.

In that earlier capital raise, the DTI attracted investment from lead investor Advent International (Boston), AT&T Ventures and Cross Atlantic Ventures, among others, Graves said.

Graves, an occasional Angel investor, holds interest in some other companies, but BKON "is where I'm spending 150% of my time," he said.

He and his family reside in Davidson County. He earned his degree in economics at Vanderbilt University. His LinkedIn profile is here. VNC

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Tags: Advent International, advertising, applications, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell Berkowitz, Beat Zenerino, BKON, BKON Connect, BLEON, browsers, DTI Networks, Elliott Davis Decosimo, entrepreneurs, FLO Thinkery, FLO.co, HavenLock, Internet of Things, investment, IoT, Leigh Fogle, Michael Dukes, Patterson, Pinnacle Financial Partners, Richard Graves, software, venture capital, Web, wireless

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