Illinois Entrepreneur Danny Gardner Wins ECE Young Alumni Achievement Award

9/30/2022 2:34:07 PM

Danny Gardner, founder and CEO of Mesh++, a startup that is helping bridge the digital divide by providing easy access to internet in underserved communities, broad public spaces, rural areas, and emerging economies through its solar powered routers, was recently recognized with the ECE (Electrical and Computer Engineering) Young Alumni Achievement Award. Established in 1999, the ECE Young Alumni Achievement Award recognizes young alumni who have made outstanding professional contributions to their fields since graduating from Illinois ECE. Danny is an ECE ’17 alumnus.

What started as an electrical and computer engineering senior design project aimed at bringing internet access to remote areas by eliminating the infrastructure requirements is now a successful company that is bringing equitable access to information. Mesh++ raised $4.9 million in seed funding in October 2021.

Solar-powered Wi-Fi isn't a new concept, but according to Danny what sets Mesh++ nodes technology apart is its ability to enable adaptable Wi-Fi anywhere with limited infrastructure bypassing the costs of traditional fiber or heavy solar panels, which are also difficult to move or reinstall every time you need to reconfigure the network. Mesh++ is leveraging the decreasing costs of Wi-Fi hardware and flash memory to provide better connectivity in a simple, scalable format.

From facilitating distance learning in Champaign County by providing free internet access to underserved students, to supporting The Ignite Cities project that provided Wi-Fi access and relief for families struggling through the pandemic in Chicago, Columbia, Miami, and New Orleans, to providing Wi-Fi for the media at 2019 Oscars and setting up its network at 2018 Super Bowl LII in Minneapolis, Mesh++ is truly bringing internet access to all. More recently, Mesh++ announced that their units arrived in Ukraine to provide much needed Wi-Fi connectivity. Mesh++ is truly bringing internet access to all.  

When Gardner first started his company, it was primarily geared towards providing easy internet access to emerging markets. A chance meeting with the previous mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel on campus made Gardner focus on connectivity problems in Chicago and underserved communities at home in the U.S.

Danny was named in 2019 Crain's Chicago Business' 20 in their 20s list. And his company Mesh++ was named one of the top 50 “Chicago Startups to Watch in 2019” by Built In Chicago.

When he was on campus, Danny’s list of accomplishments includes winning Dr. Paul Magelli Innovation Prize at the Cozad New Venture Challenge in 2017. Hosted by the Technology Entrepreneur Center, Cozad New Venture Challenge is an experiential educational program that helps accelerate the development of startup ideas. Danny also was a finalist of the Illinois Innovation Award in 2017. The Illinois Innovation Award honors University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign students for excellence in cutting-edge innovation or translational research that addresses real-world problems and has the potential to make a significant impact.