D.C. Telecom Company Raising $3M to Bridge the Digital Divide


Washington Business Journal
July 5, 2018

Health care, particularly for telemedicine, and education are among the industries hungry for greater connectivity, according to Turner.

The Traxyl team’s answer? Taking the optical fibers bundled inside of cables, laying them directly onto paved roads and encasing them in protective coating. The process is intended to build these networks cheaper and faster than traditional methods.

The duo plans to do a few things with the $3 million in seed funding:

Develop the machines. The FiberTraxters, as they’re called, lay out the optical fiber. The goal, Turner said, would be to lease these machines to installers building optical networks. He said he’s hoping to be able to roll out a commercially releasable product in the next nine months to a year.

Build the team. Traxyl currently has four full-time employees, and several others working with them: vendors, a scientist, back-office, marketing and financial support; and contractors for specific projects. Closing the seed round would allow the team to hire engineers to work on machinery design.

Find new space. The company splits its time between its D.C. office at Halcyon House in Georgetown and a space in Fauquier County. But the co-founders expect to move all operations to an industrial warehouse on the Dulles corridor, once they have the capital.

Traxyl was just awarded a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation, totaling nearly $225,000, according to Turner. The company is using the money for third-party lab testing, to determine how long FiberTrax last on the roads.

Traxyl is also completing the Tampa, Florida-based Dreamit startup accelerator, an arm of the Philadelphia-based venture capital firm, which provides pre-Series A digital health and urban tech startups with early support to grow their businesses. Up to this point, the co-founders have bootstrapped Traxyl, with roughly $200,000 invested. Turner declined to disclose revenue figures.

For now, the company – a 2017 Washington Business Journal Innovation Awards honoree – is competing with the other techniques used to install fiber, like trenching, as well as wireless technology companies. But Turner said he sees the business as complementary.

“We’re actually thinking that using this technique, we could expand the connection that one might otherwise be able to make, or expand the reach of a wireless antenna by connecting to it and allowing that antenna to be a little further around,” he said. “We think we’re actually going to be opening up new markets that are currently just inaccessible because there’s not enough money to support these projects.” The end-game? Go international. The team is in talks with counties across the U.S., from California to Texas to Florida, and sees opportunity outside of the country in the Middle East and parts of Africa, for example. The business also aims to slash the cost of installation: Using utility poles costs about $50,000 per mile, whereas trenching can run as much as $200,000 per mile, Turner estimates.

Over time, Traxyl hopes to bring the FiberTrax price to $20,000 to $25,000 per mile.

The issue Traxyl aims to address has been highlighted by recent bipartisan efforts in Congress, with legislation directing the Federal Communications Commission to establish the Office of Rural Broadband, to provide people in rural communities access to affordable and reliable telecom and broadband tech.