David Hagan is President and COO of Santa Monica-based Boingo Wireless (www.boingo.com). Boingo provides wireless hot spots and connectivity. David was previously CEO of FirstSource, and President and COO of Ticketmaster Online CitySearch. I caught up with David to hear a bit about what the Boingo is up to nowadays.
BK: What's Boingo's key value proposition in the Wi-Fi market?
DH: Boingo was founded on the belief that for Wi-Fi to be successful, it had to be easy to use and widely available through roaming, or the ability to access many networks with one username and password and one billing relationship. We began by offering the Boingo service with great client software that allowed people to manage their Wi-Fi connections and also the ability to use Boingo service in thousands of locations. From there, we began offering Wi-Fi aggregation services for other telecom, Internet or managed service providers that want to build a Wi-Fi service. Through Boingo's Platform Services offering, these service providers (telcos, ISPs, MSPs) get access to our 7,500 hot spot network, private-label client software and all of the back-office technology that makes roaming and billing possible.
BK: What is your business model, and where does Boingo derive its revenue from?
DH: Boingo generates revenue from three sources: Licensing of software into the telco/ISP/MSP space; connectivity onto Boingo's aggregated network and retail customer subscription revenue.
BK: What kind of competition do you see from cellular Internet access, and what is your positioning with telecom providers?
DH: We view 3G data services as very compatible with Wi-Fi because 3G offers the ubiquity - you can use them wherever you can use a cell phone - while Wi-Fi offers the performance for high-bandwidth applications. We are planning to offer a "Wi-WAN" version of our software later this year that will allow users to manage both their 3G and Wi-Fi services all under the same account.
BK: Do you see any issue as many retail stores and cities start to offer free wireless access to customers?
DH: Free Wi-Fi services are a great way to seed the market and build interest in public Wi-Fi, but they won't replace a service like Boingo for several reasons. First, the venues are now discovering the costs involved and customer service issues, like technical support, that make a free service difficult to sustain. Secondly, our target market - business travelers - values convenience and reliability and knows that it can count on Boingo hot spots. I think also that smaller businesses don't know how easy it can be to launch a commercial hot spot service, an issue we're addressing with our Hot Spot in a Box program. With our recently announced partnership with Linksys, these businesses can start their own hot spot with a hardware investment of around $200. Bottom line is people want to get connected wherever they are and free hot spots help that cause.
BK: What's the biggest challenge for Boingo?
DH: Execution. Managing the growth that we are experiencing and staying ahead of the rapidly evolving Wi-Fi market. We're adding people and expanding our Wi-Fi network across the world. It's a very exciting time.