Wednesday, October 11, 2034

Coming February 1, 2015

We are pleased to announce that we've taken possession of our new facility at 925 Iowa St, Suite R.

This site will be the home of the entrepreneurship center until we outgrow it.  Many of you will be familiar with the site.  It was home to an audio video repair shop for many years and later served at the headquarters of the Douglas County Democratic party.

The site includes 2,400 sq-ft of office space and 2,700 sq-ft of shop space making it ideally suited to our project.

We are planning on installing all of the components of our project on a single site:

  • Co-working Space
  • Private Offices
  • Conference Room
  • Mailboxes
  • Data Center
  • Workshop
  • Prototyping Lab

We are currently working on some of the finish items while we await permits from the City of Lawrence to begin construction.

Friday, October 11, 2024

Lawrence Challenges

Every entrepreneur has challenges that they overcome on their path to success.  Sometimes their product is ready too early for the market.  They may have problems finding capital to build their company, qualified staff to implement their ideas or a partner to build their company with.

It is apparent that here in Lawrence entrepreneurs have greater challenges and barriers to entry than in other communities.  After all, our community is growing much slower than similar communities in our region - there must be reasons.

One of the things that professional fundraisers teach entrepreneurs who are seeking capital is to talk about the problem they are trying to solve.  So we'd like to start collaborating with other businesses to help define the types of challenges faced by local entrepreneurs.

For the next three weeks we are going to be asking local entrepreneurs to lay out the challenges that they have faced and how they solved them.  That will allow us to look at the obstacles they face and try to develop programs and initiatives that help address them.

Kris and I always put our money where our mouth is, so we'll go first.

You can send us your own narrative at:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Wicked Broadband Turn Around

 I think everyone remembers the 2008 financial crisis a little differently.

 Folks in the financial industry remember the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008.  Others will remember the gyrations of the stock market in October of that same year.

 For my wife and I, election night 2008 was the day we remember.  That was the day we finally got the books reconstructed and realized we had $6,000 more in checks outstanding than we had in the bank.

 While the rest of the world was celebrating, we were desperately trying to scrape together enough capital to keep our company afloat.

 Let me explain - we were a startup company funded by investors and tasked with building and growing a network.  This meant we were investing tens of thousands of dollars each month in network equipment, installations, configurations and marketing.  During the summer of 2008 we were burning something like $50,000 per month trying to grow our footprint.

 That spring we had proposed our “Freenet Kids” initiative which went down in flames at the Lawrence City Commission.  Commissioners didn't decide not to pursue the project - they decided not to even review the proposal.  This made our investors skittish, but they were still supporting our growth.

 But in October of 2008 our mandate to grow came to an end.  We were told “be profitable right now or go out of business”.  The checks stopped coming.

 This wasn’t the only thing that happened in the fall of 2008.  We also lost a lawsuit over our prior rental space.  It was a petty lawsuit over the use and remodeling of our original office space, but we still ended up on the wrong side of a judgement.  As a result, at the same time our funding was drying up we were hit with a $40,000 judgement.  Our bank accounts were frozen and we were all of a sudden unable to meet our financial obligations.

 The company was a mess.  We’d spent too much time focusing on the technology and the fundraising and not enough time on the fundamentals.

 The next couple years are a blur.  We managed to save the company from complete destruction, but only by reducing our staffing from 20 to 4.  We had constant cashflow problems.  If you remember, banks weren't lending to ANYONE during this period, much less a distressed startup company like us.  That meant we were operating with no access to credit.  Often time we were left with the choice of paying employees or paying taxes.  We always chose employees in these cases, but then paid our taxes as funds became available.

 So how did we fix it?

 Well, how do you eat an elephant?  One byte at a time.

 We got in touch with our vendors and put them on payment plans.  We raised prices, cut our office space in half, took reduced salaries, sold vehicles, inventory and pretty much anything that wasn't nailed down.

 We also began to improve our service so we could keep more customers.  I personally went through every device on the network and verified its operation.  I stabilized some of our core systems and took others completely offline.  Because we were so short on labor, we focused on improving our monitoring suite so we could react to outages instantly.  That has proven to be great for our customers many of whom get calls from us asking if they need assistance before they are even aware of an outage.

As time progressed, things got better.  The taxes got paid square, our service improved substantially and we began to grow the network.  In 2011 the banks started lending again and we were able to expand into fiber-optic services and improve our network infrastructure.

At the end of the day what saved us was customer loyalty, quality customer service and a willingness to do whatever was necessary to keep our customers online and our network up and running.

Two years ago we turned the corner. We’ve grown our sales 20% year to year.  We have significantly expanded capacity and have become the go-to company for folks looking for ultra-high-speed services.   Where we have fiber and directional microwave service, our customers love us.  And even our legacy WiFi network still provides thousands of residents with Internet access each day.

Today our running operations are strong.  We are constantly expanding our services and have learned valuable lessons from our past.  However, there’s a lot of the Wicked story that is yet to be told.  Our community needs growth- and history shows us that growth in communication is the growth of democracy and culture, not least growth of the economy.  Our community needs more Internet, and our social and political structure needs to embrace that ideal, not fight it at every turn.

We don’t propose that Wicked should be the only player in this game.  To the contrary, our agenda is to embrace any plans that will actually expand community horizons.  We value the good of our community, not false hopes, and to that end we will occasionally oppose proposals.  We fully expect and understand that there will be public debate and criticism.  We fully expect to account for our actions.  The good news for the community is that we are community-driven and we care.

  • Focus on the fundamentals.
  • Failure is temporary, it can be overcome.
  • Never give up.

We are working to share our experience with other entrepreneurs.  We want to give back to the customers and community that supported us during dark times.  At our Lawrence Center for Entrepreneurship we are going to help people with huge ideas become hugely successful.

Joshua Montgomery
President, Wicked Broadband.  I want to thank my wife, my daughters, and all my customers, employees, vendors, the United States Air Force, and everyone else who make up our community.