Purple WiFi is a wireless hotspot company that doesn’t own any hotspots. Instead it has built a virtual network of business Wi-Fi access points available to the public for free – as long as they’re willing login with their social media credentials.
Now the previously self-funded U.K. startup has raised its first outside money, announcing Wednesday a $5 million round led by former Tessco CEO Terry Leahy and the William Currie Group with participation from Juno Capital. Purple said it would use the funds to hire more staff and expand outside of the U.K.
Purple basically offers a trade-off between businesses and their customers: Cafes, stores, restaurants, hotels and even museums will give their customers free Wi-Fi access with minimal login fuss in exchange for analytics and the right to market their wares at those same customers. Businesses who sign up use their existing Wi-Fi routers, tying them to Purple’s managed service in the cloud, which handles logins and tracks customer data as well as hosts Purple’s marketing platform.
From a consumer’s point of view, when you enter a Purple business you use whatever social media credentials you choose to login into the Purple WiFi portal and then get free wireless internet access. That idea isn’t new. [company]Facebook[/company] and [company]Google[/company] are trying to build virtual Wi-Fi networks using their user IDs as the keys to unlock public hotspots and in exchange getting access to valuable consumer data.
Purple is a bit more consumer friendly on the credentials side, though, as it doesn’t tie you down to a specific social network. Right now it supports Facebook, [company]Twitter[/company], Google and Instagram as well as China’s Weibo and Russia’s VKontakte.