Bytemobile hopes to expand Champaign office in 2010

Bytemobile hopes to expand Champaign office in 2010

CHAMPAIGN – A company that helps mobile networks operate faster and more efficiently hopes to add more people to its Champaign office next year.

Bytemobile, which has 12 full-time employees in the University of Illinois Research Park, plans to hire three more early next year, said Constantine Polychronopoulos, the company's founder and chief technology officer.

Polychronopoulos, a UI professor of electrical and computer engineering, helped develop the technology that led to formation of Bytemobile nine years ago.

Now based in Mountain View, Calif., the company has nearly 300 employees. It has offices in Mountain View, Champaign and the Boston area, as well as in the United Kingdom, Greece, the United Arab Emirates, China, Japan, Singapore and Australia.

Bytemobile's technology is used by 12 of the top wireless network operators, including Vodafone, T-Mobile and Telefonica, Polychronopoulos said.

The platform allows those companies to "optimize" data sent over their networks, in effect reducing the amount of data without noticeably affecting video quality.

That's important for mobile Internet applications, because it frees up bandwidth for traffic. Bytemobile's product means "real money" and "real savings" to mobile network operators because the companies don't have to spend as much on infrastructure, he said.

At a "Start-Up Cafe" presentation at the EnterpriseWorks business incubator Tuesday, Polychronopoulos showed original videos alongside videos that had been optimized, then challenged the audience to identify which was the original.

"It's very hard," he said. "You have to be a true expert with great eyes to determine what was the original."

Bytemobile has raised nearly $60 million in capital, thanks partly to Mike Farmwald, a former UI faculty member who founded Rambus Inc. and later started his own venture capital firm, Skymoon Ventures. Farmwald also opened the door for Bytemobile to get investments from Benchmark Capital.

Bytemobile became profitable three years after its founding. Today its product is used in about 115 networks in 58 countries, Polychronopoulos said.

Among the lessons he said he learned:

– Innovators shouldn't count on hitting it big financially. "Riches may or may not come. The journey is the destination and the reward," he said.

– In assembling a company, eliminate single points of failure. Don't have a person so singularly important to the operation that if he or she is hit by a bus, the operation is doomed.

– It's easier to recognize lack of leadership than it is to recognize leadership. "I can't prescribe leadership," Polychronopoulos said, "but I know when it's not there."

An audience member asked Polychronopolous about his stake in Bytemobile, and the founder responded without giving specifics.

"I think it's better to have a small piece of a very large pie," he said. "I don't want a large part of a very small pie."

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