Sharkero seeks to make data more affordable, accessible for all

Helium screenshot showing current hotspots.

Sharkero founder Russ From has one end game in mind: to make wireless connectivity cheaper and more accessible for all.

As more of us continue to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve inevitably experienced some sort of frustration related to our internet service. From is hoping to change that.

Over the past 19 months, an international cryptocurrency project launched in Wisconsin that allows people to provide IoT and cellular service from their properties.

From is offering hotspots to homeowners and business owners, which in turn provide wireless coverage for IoT devices. Participants are paid for taking part in the program, with earnings varying depending on how much use each hotspot gets.

“This really excites me because this provides a way to not only provide revenue for normal people, to help grow the network, but it really creates pressure so that services get cheaper, and that’s my end goal. I think that wireless service, broadband service and cellular services are overpriced in the United States and need more competition,” From said.

Before staring Sharkero, From worked in cybersecurity for companies like U.S. Cellular. He also worked for Verizon Wireless for over seven years, deploying 4G cell sites. Currently, he bounces back and forth between Madison and Milwaukee, and has helped deploy hotspots all over the country.

He does not own the network he is helping deploy. It belongs to a nonprofit called Helium, which describes itself as a “people’s network” that represents a paradigm shift for decentralized wireless infrastructure.

“What I do is I’m helping evangelize the service,” From said, adding that most people find out about the network and use it recreationally between friends and family, but he is among the first to commercialize the network as a service.

There are dozens of these hotspots just in the downtown Milwaukee area alone, and several dozen more in the Madison area. There are 408,630 of these hotspots around the world.

When a person is interested in a hotspot unit, From must first do a remote survey of their location to determine whether or not they would actually make any money from deploying the unit. This depends on how much demand a certain location has and how much traffic a hotspot would get. If a potential customer is determined to be in a good location, all they need to do is hook up the hotspot to the back of their router and make sure it has power.

“I take care of all the rest, the crypto, the backend, the software, the updates, the troubleshooting. About 90, 95% of these never have an issue,” From said.

Hotspot users have access to a dashboard that shows them exactly how much use their device is getting and how much money they are making each day. They can choose to be paid in cryptocurrency or in cash.

“I believe that in the next decade, we’re going to transition to a different kind of decentralized work to where crypto actually becomes a way for most people to actually have a full-time income,” said From.

His long-term vision for the hotspot network is to make data more affordable for all and to allow people to have an easy stream of income.

This first generation of hotspots can be used for things like smartwatches, scooters and temperature sensors. The second generation of hotspots is coming out in 2022 and will allow people to access 5G service on their cellphones.

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Ashley covers startups, technology and manufacturing for BizTimes. She was previously the managing editor of the News Graphic and Washington County Daily News. In past reporting roles, covering education at The Waukesha Freeman, she received several WNA awards. She is a UWM graduate. In her free time, Ashley enjoys watching independent films, tackling a new recipe in the kitchen and reading a good book.

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