Liberty Global, Arris Join Benu's Backers

Gearing up for its go-to-market phase, virtual CPE startup Benu Networks has added Liberty Global Ventures and Arris Group as strategic investors, and has hired a new CEO, Dino Di Palma.

On the funding front, Liberty Global Ventures and Arris Group have sweetened a $27.7 million “B” round that adds to the $26.6 million announced by Benu in September. Spark Capital, Sutter Hill Ventures and Comcast Ventures also participated in the round.

Di Palma, who served as the COO of Acme Packet prior to its $2.1 billion acquisition by Oracle in February 2013, started his new post at Benu about three weeks ago and is coming on board to ramp up the company’s go-to-market phase.

He said his top priorities are to extend Benu’s market presence as it looks to achieve global reach, ramp up the Benu’s operations, and to tightly define the company’s virtual CPE platform.

As for Arris’s role, he views the vendor “as a very strong candidate” to help Benu expand globally.

While Di Palma takes over the day-to-day operations of Benu, the company’s former CEO, Dave Callan, is staying on board to drive the technology strategy of the company, and drive the company’s two-to-three year outlook.

Benu, founded in 2010, counts execs from a wide range of cable and telecom vendors, including RiverDelta Networks (sold to Motorola in 2001), Cisco Systems, Arris, and Ciena. It has been developing a “virtual” service edge platform that tucks the management and brains of services into the proverbial cloud. By decoupling the control and data plane, the company believes, operators can gain unprecedented visibility into the set-tops, modems, tablets and other devices on their own access networks, as well as those run by others.

The first application from Benu is the Wireless Access Gateway,  which is already in use by a yet-unnamed major U.S. cable operator to manage and authenticate the national deployment of a “community” WiFi service that programs an additional, public-facing SSID (service set identifier) in millions of homebound DOCSIS-powered wireless gateways.

Benu hasn’t identified that partner, but Comcast and Cablevision Systems are among the domestic operators that have ramped up their “homespot” deployments. Two of Benu’s investors – Comcast and Liberty Global -- recently announced a WiFi roaming agreement.

“Benu’s innovative solution will allow operators to deliver services and manage policies on a user and device level irrespective of access type. This approach opens up a range of new business opportunities in terms of service innovation, delivery cost, and velocity” said Dan Hennessy, chief architecture officer at Liberty Global, in a statement.

“Liberty Global Ventures invests in companies which provide high strategic value to the cable industry, and we are excited to work with the Benu team to deliver innovation around Wi-Fi and Cloud,” added Ankur Prakash, VP of Liberty Global Ventures.

Billerica, Mass.-based Benu has more than 120 employees, and has operations in India, the U.K. and Spain.