Yet another dongle-based player steps into this market segment, which still has to prove its value potential.
Dallas-based connected car startup, Vinli, has developed a device that, when plugged into a vehicle’s diagnostic port, provides a Wi-Fi hotspot as well as a suite of apps and services. To promote its product and to grow its markets, Vinli has successfully raised $6.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Samsung Venture Investment Group., Cox Automotive and The Westly Group.
In a relationship which is about more than just money, the investors each bring critical resources to Vinli. Samsung has marketing, manufacturing, and distribution expertise. Cox Automotive, has relationships with more than 40,000 car dealerships and The Westly Group is a well-known VC firm that has had some success investing in cleantech companies, notably Tesla Motors.
In addition, joining Vinli’s board of directors are Luis Arbulu, director of strategic investments at Samsung Global Innovation Center, and David Liniado, vice president of new ventures for Cox Automotive.
Vinli co-founder and CEO Mark Haidar explained that these investors will ultimately help the company realize its goal of being embedded in the car.
“Vinli is focused on bringing the most personalized, best driving experience possible to modern drivers, one that enables smooth connectivity to their favorite apps”, said Luis Arbulu, Director of Strategic Investments at Samsung Global Innovation Center, in a released statement today. “We are excited about Vinli’s innovative technology and look forward to welcoming the team to the Samsung family.”
Vinli plugs into a car’s OBD II port — a data interface equipped standard on cars since 1996. From there a smartphone connects to the device through Bluetooth and serves up a multitude of apps. The whole platform is open and so far Haidar said Vinli has convinced 1,000 developers to build apps for the system. The company expects to launch with 20 apps in August and Haidar knows of 120 more currently in development.
The Vinli dongle supports both iOS and Android, and includes GPS, 4G, LTE, Wi-Fi hotspot and advanced crash reporting capabilities. The startup has created an open platform so developers can create apps and other solutions for the platform. Vinli says consumers will have access to more than 150 apps via its app store, including SmartThings, ParkHub, and SafeDrive.
Vinli is manufacturing the devices now with the first units expected to ship in August