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Hot 20 2009: Hans Robertson, Sanjit Biswas and John Bicket, Founders of Meraki

Photography by Bryan Davis.

Next time you’re on a desert island and can send out an SOS via email, you might want to thank Meraki. The SF-based company, launched in 2006 by three former MIT grad students, has since brought affordable wireless Internet service to more 140 countries, from places such as Cape Horn on the tip of South America to SF’s City Hall. They’ve even been responsible for making sure movie stars have Wi-Fi connections while on sets as remote as Tropic Thunder’s, which was filmed in the rain forest of Kauai.

Google—an original customer and investor—lured the threesome out from Cambridge “with the promise of free food,” says CEO Sanjit Biswas with a smile. Clearly, they saw the potential in Meraki’s cloud-based technology, which uses easy-to-install routers to extend the broadband signal, creating wireless networks at less than half the cost and complexity of most.

The company has used SF as a guinea pig—bringing their network, “Free the Net,” to 40 local neighborhoods. “We did a number of installations around the Tenderloin,” says Biswas of a district that’s been historically underserved. “It’s nice to see the playing field completely leveled.” Meraki also recently received USDA acceptance, making its equipment available to customers, often in rural areas, looking to qualify for broadband stimulus funding.

With offices in Potrero Hill, you’ll see the founders frequently hanging out at places like the Coffee Bar. “We plan to stay in SF,” Biswas says. “We’re not moving down to the Peninsula. All the cool kids are up here anyway.”

Stylist: Rachel Lena Esterline. Styling Assistance: Sonie Hack. On Hans: Bless cotton button-down ($389) at Elizabeth Charles, 415-440-2100. Marc by Marc Jacobs tweed blazer ($458), indigo jean ($78) and leather belt ($48), all at Marc by Marc Jacobs, 415-447-9322. On Sanjit: Marc by Marc Jacobs army mélange jacket with zip-out vest ($528) at Marc by Marc Jacobs. Cotton t-shirt and glasses, model’s own.

Check out the other 2009 Hot 20.