One problem soldiers face is hearing their phones over the din of battle. When two Stanford grads, Alexander Asseily and Hosain Rahman, approached the Defense Department with their noise-canceling technology, the military jumped on it. That was about a decade ago. Today their company, Jawbone, has morphed that tech into headsets (right) that let phone users talk hands-free while cutting down on street buzz and other annoying background noise. A sensor in the Jawbone unit picks up vibrations in the cheeks, while tiny microphones sort out background noise and cancel it. The duo still run the private company. (It won't reveal financials.) In July the firm received a $70 million equity infusion from J.P. Morgan Asset Management, on top of earlier rounds from VC firms Andreessen Horowitz and Sequoia. The money guys like that Jawbone headsets are getting smarter. The latest model lets you connect to Twitter on your smartphone, using your voice. Jawbone does face stiff competition from small players like Plantronics and giants like Samsung. Its big challenge is to keep the improvements coming faster than the other guy.
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