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Meraki Is Giving Startups $15K In Free Wi-Fi Gear (techcrunch.com)
48 points by bobbybidon 1785 days ago | hide | past | web | 18 comments | favorite

As an alternative, check out http://open-mesh.com.

The only good thing about Meraki is that their immoral (and potentially illegal acts) led to the open mesh firmware of B.A.T.M.A.N. and RO.B.IN.

A company that started in an open source MIT project, that initially encouraged hacking their firmware, transformed to retroactively changing their EULA on hardware already bought, making it illegal to run any custom firmware and then they aggressively increased their service fees.

From "happy hacking" to "screw you" - the story of Meraki http://www.virishi.net/from-happy-hacking-screw-you-story-me...

Just for clarity, the equipment that's being offered here isn't even mesh. Meraki has moved almost totally away from mesh (which doesn't surprise me since the people who are interested in mesh generally have no money).

What is with this bias against bootstrapped startups?

"We will be selecting from companies who:

Have raised Seed or Series A funding from a VC or established Angel Investors"


This is a cost to them so they want to increase the likelihood that the startup will do something useful that will feed back into future revenue. There are not a lot of indicators that have reasonable validity and are easy to assess, so they've picked something where others have done some heavy lifting.


It's probably harder to verify whether a bootstrapped startup is "legit".

They are giving out of a serious amount of hardware, an angel or VC investment shows a sign of commitment. Now, I am not saying there aren't very successful and committed bootstrap startups, its just that Meraki needs a metric to filter companies.

My cat has a bootstrapped startup, maybe she can get some free stuff?

We've deployed a number of challenging wifi installs over the last few years, trying out a bunch of hardware+software approaches. Meraki is one of the ones we haven't tried, mostly due to their enterprise cost.

So if you're interested in this kind of stuff but willing to try out something other than Meraki, try Ubiquiti (http://www.ubnt.com/). They're our current favorite wireless equipment vendor. Very reliable hardware, really really good prices -- enterprise class wireless for close to off-the-shelf consumer prices. I liked them a little better when their hardware could easily be reflashed to Robin/open-mesh, but Open Mesh has since gone and moved to their own hardware offerings, and Ubiquiti got hit pretty hard by the FCC for making it too easy for hackers to circumvent radio power settings, so they tweaked their ROM chip without updating their model numbers and everybody got screwed by that for a while.

The Ubiquiti management console seems pretty decent so far. We just did an installation for a client where we were seeing 10dB - 20db of difference between his Cisco wireless router and the Ubiquiti unit in the same room. We did have some trouble with Ubiquiti's Java-based management software that ate up almost an hour of troubleshooting time, so there is that. There are ways to do "cloud management" with Ubiquiti's hardware (I liked CloudTrax better...), but it's not real great right now.

If you want to get a wireless point-to-point backhaul going up to around 8 miles, you can do that for about $3,000 of Ubiquiti gear -- really cheap for that kind of thing.

Engenius is another popular brand. We initially liked them a lot, their support for flashing their units to other control software was really good, and Engenius still has a deal with CloudTrax, which is our preferred cloud management software. Unfortunately, their radios just stink. We've had a ton of hardware failures, and we've eaten the cost on some of those. I'm not sure if that's the hot/cold differentials we get here or what, but they just don't seem to last long. In fact ... come to think of it, I think every single one of our Engenius units have been replaced out of necessity. Yuck.

We started out with the off-the-shelf Linksys / Cisco / other routers option, and honestly those really aren't worth the trouble unless you just want basic coverage with fancier management options. Now that Cisco has finished eating Linksys, if you're looking for an up-to-date replacement for that trusty old WRT54GL, try Buffalo's wireless routers. We set up a client with an N300 unit not too long ago. The hardware seems really similar to the WRT54G series (according to my hardware guy), but the built-in Buffalo software was already basically dd-wrt so we didn't feel the need to re-flash.

FWIw, I've had somewhat flaky results with Buffalo routers. The Ubiqiti gear is solid though ( I too had previously used and recommended Engenious, until one of my preferred distributors turn me on to Ubnt. )

The only real downside to Ubiqiti is the essential lack of tech support, if you're not able to grok it on your own, then you're kind of SOL (though they do have a great support forum).

The other big challenge to Ubiqiti has been the rampant counterfeiting issues with their equipment, and of course the rumored 'mob hit' on one of their competitors, lol.

+1 on the Ubiquiti recommendation. Nothing but good experiences.

What's the benefit for startups to use this versus a $30 off the shelf router? It seems more for enterprises.

Also the title makes it sound like there's a giveaway with 15k worth of routers or something but it's actually 15k per participating startup.

Meraki APs can handle hundreds of clients, while most off-the-shelf APs fail beyond 8 or 16. You can manage them remotely. If someone is hogging your bandwidth, you can boot them off remotely. Clients can roam seamlessly between APs, which is essential when you have an office bigger than a few thousand square feet. I felt it was worth the money.

As another datapoint, I have been using a crappy old Linksys WRT54GL plus another $20 router to do every single thing you mention (except for handling large numbers of clients - although I would guess it would handle at least 20+ no sweat).

It's all thanks to Toastman's[1] version of the Tomato firmware. I wrote up a nice article[2] about my experience with the whole deal!

[1]: http://toastmanfirmware.yolasite.com/ [2]: http://www.verdantrefuge.com/writing/2012/toastman-tomato-fi...

You'll have to explain 'why', before you can clear down this assertion.

The 802.11 MAC has limits, to be sure.

Are startups in dire need of enterprise class wifi? The only purpose I can imagine a startup needing their product is to put wifi in their office - but wouldn't most office setups be wired? I'd like to see this offer extended to community makerspaces, libraries or co-working spaces. A gift like this would make a heck of a lot more difference (and I know quite a few that could use it).

It is only for Series-A funded companies. Wish TC had put this earlier in the article.


so its not really for "startups", its more of a trick to get companies with capital to have a sales conversation with meraki.

Its a clever sales trick, but it also pisses me off. VC/Angel funding is not the definition of a "legitimate" tech startups. (to borrow from recent oft quoted phrases from recent political discourse)

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