After my parents got divorced, my brother and I bought the family vacation home in rural northern Michigan from my dad. I was an attorney and my brother was a consultant, and our jobs required us to be very connected. The only internet option at this location was a satellite connection that was very data-limited, unreliable, and had a super high degree of latency. I couldn’t talk to the partners at my firm on a video chat. So my brother and I had a large part of our balance sheets tied up in this asset that we couldn’t enjoy because we couldn’t be there and work.
Necessity being the mother of invention, we looked around and learned about this type of access technology called fixed wireless. That’s where the radios making up the last-mile connection are both fixed in a stationary position, as opposed to a mobile phone where one of two radios is moving around. We did some research and found out lots of companies were doing this around the country. The technology had come a very long way in the past few years: The equipment was now cheap, reliable, and fairly easy to deploy. That made it much easier to build a company in this space. But there wasn’t one of those companies near us.
We went to about 20 friends and neighbors in Michigan and said, “The Carr brothers and Tom Innes have cooked up a scheme to get you all the internet, and we need you to contribute some capital to help us get off the ground.” And people were like, where do I sign?
We ran that network remotely for about a year as a test. I think we got to about 30 customers. And it worked. We realized that people must have this problem all over the country. You have a house or an office that’s in a beautiful place, but one of the reasons it’s beautiful is that it’s off the grid.
That was about the time Tom was finishing business school. I called him one morning while I was walking to work and said, “If you’ll jump and work on this business with me, I’ll quit my job and meet you in Virginia in early July.” And he said, “Great.”