This is the story I like to tell often because it is so unbelievable. Back in May 2005, when Muniwireless.com had already established itself as the place to go to for all things muni Wi-Fi, I was wondering, how do I take it to the next stage? Many people were asking me to hold conferences and seminars, and I thought it would be fun to have an annual meetup of wireless enthusiasts.
I happened to be in San Francisco in May 2005, staying in a friend’s apartment in the Castro District. One day, I found myself in a laundromat (Toni Cleaners and Laundry) across Cafe Flore near the corner of Noe and Castro, waiting for the dryer to finish. I was bored, so I picked up a copy of the San Francisco Examiner, a local free paper, which I never usually read. I was flipping through the pages when suddenly a tiny article on the right hand side, caught my eye. It was a press release announcing the launch of Microcast Communications. After reading the description of their business, I knew they were the partners I needed to take Muniwireless to the next stage.
I tore out the article and as soon as my clothes were dry, I rushed back to the apartment and did a Google search on Microcast. I found their website and emailed the general information email address. Within a few hours, Al Perlman, one of the founders, responded and told me that Gary Bolles, another founder, lived only minutes away from me. I contacted Gary and arranged to meet the next day.
I began the meeting by describing Muniwireless, which Gary had already seen online. Suddenly Gary jumped up and dragged out the white board and began laying out what we could do to take it to the next stage: conferences, seminars, reports, databases and more. Within 15 minutes, I “knew” that Microcast was going to be my business partner. That “knowing” was a feeling that this was the right choice.
I met the entire team the following month and we sketched out the initial plan to turn the blog into a media company, starting with a conference in San Francisco in September 2005. The scheduling was tight. We had only a few months to put together an agenda, find a venue, invite speakers and attendees, find sponsors and publicize the event. But Microcast pulled it off very well.
Since our first conference in September 2005, we held conferences, web seminars and roundtables across the US. We are doing the same in Europe and Asia this year. We have a quarterly magazine and research reports. We are launching more services to help municipalities and vendors make the most out of the demand for high-speed ubiquitous (wireless) access. We established Muniwireless LLC in the US and have added a few employees. I continue to work out of Amsterdam.
What made me choose to partner with Microcast so quickly? The founders — Al Perlman, Gary Bolles and Mike Perkowski — have been in tech publishing for many years. They are founding editors and publishers of CRN, VARBusiness, Smart Reseller, Computer Systems News. They launched publications such as Network Computing, InformationWeek, InteractiveWeek, CIO Insight and Baseline.
Gary runs a lot of conferences, among them the annual Google Zeitgeist event. He’s now the Muniwireless “conference guru”. Amy Katz, the head of advertising sales, has also been in the business for a long time, and without her expertise, we would not have obtained the resources to organize so many events. Their collective experience in organizing conferences, getting advertisers and sponsors, putting out research reports (which is Mike’s specialty) was exactly what I needed.
More importantly, they share my values. And we have so much fun working together. All of the articles I have read about starting businesses, entrepreneurship, partnering with people, never talk about FUN. But without it, you cannot be creative and get up in the morning looking forward to the day.
Lesson 9: You cannot explain everything with logic. Use your intuition. Don’t analyze too much if something feels right.