`House of Cards' streaming slowly? A start-up aims to help

The Eero WiFi system
Eero
The Eero WiFi system

Movie streaming devices from Apple, Amazon.com and Roku are flying off the shelves.

But when consumers install them, the speed is limited by the power of old routers, mostly designed before the onslaught of on-demand viewing.

Now, a small San Francisco-based start-up called Eero aims to massively expand that bandwidth. The company has built WiFi technology for this new era of data overload, and is now working on partnerships to get its routers in more households.

"The number one customer complaint has been not being able to connect to the WiFi network," said co-founder and CEO Nick Weaver, 27, who's been fixing home networking systems since he was 10. "There hasn't been a solution out there that fixes, within the four walls, the problems people have in their homes."

The fact that streaming is increasingly the new normal in American TV watching—according to IMDB, two of the three most popular TV shows currently airing are Netflix's "Orange is the New Black" and "Sense8," while "House of Cards" is also in the top 30—means that old data transmission technologies won't be sufficient for the on-demand future. Not to mention all the connected music players, thermostats and home security systems that more and more homes will have.

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Perhaps underscoring that need, Eero immediately sold out of its first few thousand boxes when they went on sale in February. The company is currently in talks with some of the major streaming companies and expects to have one or two distribution deals in place this year, said Weaver.

Weaver declined to say who would likely be first, but the major players are Apple, Amazon, Google and Roku. And while Netflix doesn't have its own box, the company clearly has an interested in faster Internet.

For consumers ready to replace their existing routers, Eero will start taking orders this summer for delivery by the Christmas holidays. Weaver is making regular trips to China, where his team is putting in place the manufacturing system to build hundreds of thousands of units.

A single Eero sells for $199, the same price as Apple's high-end AirPort Extreme. A package of three Eero routers, which enables customers to eliminate dead spots, costs $499.

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Eero's pitch as it goes up against Apple, Netgear and Linksys, is that its products are simple to install and manage, all from a mobile phone. And According to Eero's website, its powerful network delivers high-speed Internet to "every nook of every room."

In addition to video streaming, the Eero is designed to connect devices like Nest thermostats, Dropcam cameras and Sonos speakers.

Weaver started Eero in 2014 after spending two years at venture capital firm Menlo Ventures. Menlo is an investor in Roku and also backed Dropcam, which was purchased last year by Google's Nest unit, so Weaver has some knowledge of the pain those companies experience with bad WiFi.

Former Apple executive Jon Rubinstein, who helped develop the iMac and iPod, is an Eero adviser and also happens to be an Amazon board member.

Eero's biggest challenge right now is building enough boxes to meet demand, Weaver said.

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As it pushes beyond enthusiasts and into the mainstream, Eero has to appeal to price-sensitive consumers, who can buy $50 routers off the shelves.

That's where partnerships with the streaming companies will be critical. If Eero can get promoted by some of the world's most well-known Internet brands, consumers may be more compelled to upgrade their home networks.

Weaver hopes to see the early fruits of those efforts by the holiday season.

"When everyone unboxes their devices, they'll have WiFi that just works in the home," he said.