I had the pleasure to interview Alan Levy. Alan is the CEO of Skywire Networks, one of the largest fixed wireless broadband networks in New York City, with more than 400 lit buildings, more than 30 hubs and a near-net footprint of 25,000 commercial buildings. Skywire Networks partners with commercial building owners throughout New York City and especially the buildings located outside midtown and downtown Manhattan. The cost of digging up the streets and laying fiber in New York City is impractical and largely uneconomical. Prior to Skywire, Alan was Chairman and CEO of BlogTalkRadio, a NYC based digital podcasting platform. Prior to creating BlogTalkRadio in 2006, Alan was President of Destia Communications, a global telecommunications business which was sold to Viatel in December 1999 for more than $1 Billion.
Q1. What is your “backstory”?
ALAN: I am a serial entrepreneur in the technology industry. Prior to Skywire Networks, I was the co-founder of Xchange Telecom, a NYC based CLEC which Alfred West and I co-founded in 2002. Additionally, I was Chairman and CEO of BlogTalkRadio, a NYC based digital podcasting platform. Prior to creating BlogTalkRadio in 2006, I was President of Destia Communications, a global telecommunications business which was sold to Viatel in December 1999 for more than $1 Billion.
Q2. Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?
ALAN: Skywire Networks builds broadband networks in the sky. We connect commercial buildings to our network via microwave radios which are installed on the roofs of tall buildings. It’s a good thing that I don’t design or install the radios because I have a terrible fear of heights.
One time I did have to do a photo shoot for a business profile and we shot the picture on the roof of one of our hubs. The reporter had me stand right by the edge to get the best shot…”just move a little more to the edge, just a little more, just a little more” — I was very pleased when that shoot was over to say the least.
Q3. So what exactly does your company do?
ALAN: Skywire Networks delivers lightning fast high quality broadband and unified communications services to buildings and businesses operating in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx which are underserved by cable and traditional copper based telephony carriers.
Q4. How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
ALAN: As the Founder of BlogTalkRadio, a podcasting network that I created, we were able to provide a platform which enabled hundreds of thousands of content creators from all over the world to get their word out. The US Department of Defense also used BTR as did many soldiers in service in Iraq of Afghanistan.
In 2002, we received the following email from one of our hosts that used BTR to connect soldiers with their families.
Thank you and your staff soooo much for this.
It means a lot to me. Let me tell you a story quickly about us and BTR.
We recently did a job fair for veterans and a show. At one point a young nurse came by and asked if she could say Hello, to her fiancé“ a USMC Marine in AFghanistan. Of, course we said and take all the time you want.
She said, “Hi Mike! I love you, please come home as soon as you can, I’ll always be here waiting for you. I Love you Mike, Victoria.”
There wasn’t a dry eye in a 100 feet of that statement. Two weeks later I got an unexpected email that read:.
Dear Mr. Steve:
I received a copy of your show from my fiancé in Chicago. I’m in the military and have not heard from her in over 2 months.
I played the link of your show and heard her voice. I cried, and should not say that as a Marine, but I did.
Thank you, Sir!
On the 400+ shows we have done on BTR there has been many untold stories like this. Because of you, we go on, so “Thank You, Amy” for helping us connect soldiers with their families.
Q5. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
ALAN - 1: Make sure you surround yourself with managers that highly compliment your skill set and experience and yes, are smarter than the CEO.
ALAN - 2: Stay laser focused on your business model, product focus and plan. It’s so easy to get distracted and veer off course.
ALAN - 3: Get ready for lots of high and lows but always try to maintain a steady calm.
ALAN - 4: Always keep an eye on how your business will achieve a strong exit. Most importantly, this should be thought through at the most formative stage at the onset of the development of the product or business thesis. Fast growing technology businesses are built to scale and to be sold.
ALAN - 5: Passion, commitment and high energy are attributes all successful CEO’s demonstrate and are contagious to the entire organization.