Welcome!

Wireless Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Trevor Parsons, Christophe Primault, Kevin Benedict

Related Topics: Wireless

Wireless: Article

When 2 Heads are Better Than 1

When 2 Heads are Better Than 1

WBT interviews John Sculley and David Steinberg about InPhonic... and in doing so takes us behind the scenes of a big player in the fast-emerging "wireless management" space.

InPhonic, Inc., of Washington, DC, is the largest developer of virtual private wireless networks in the United States today, specializing in enabling its enterprise clients - large corporations and large member groups - to build a wireless network to interact with all of their employees and end users. Partners on the service side include AT&T Wireless, Verizon, and Cingular, while on the manufacturing side they include Motorola, Nokia, Ericsson, AudioVox, and RIM.

WBT: What prompted you to found InPhonic?
DAVID STEINBERG:
Well, my last business was Sterling Cellular, a wireless phone distributor and integrator, and it evolved from there. It was clear that data would be the new frontier of the wireless universe, but we also knew that if we couldn't wrap voice in with it, it would be difficult. So even though we work with RIM devices, most of our clients are still using wireless/WAP enabled phones as well.

What kinds of clients is InPhonic supplying?
DS:
Quixstar is one current example -  they have one of the world's largest sales forces, with approximately 1 million independent business owners working with them. They've hired InPhonic to build a virtual private wireless network for them.What we're doing is enabling their user group to disseminate information back and forth through different channels, utilizing a WAP gateway and an SMS gateway.

How do you integrate InPhonic's solutions with the client's existing infrastructure?
DS:
We do it through a series of best practices and proprietary applications, including device management securement and nationwide activation. What we do is merge the client's products and services with our proprietary applications and allow people to view, in addition to pushing information out to the devices. We can actually allow people to view mission-critical functionalities of their corporate Internet through their wireless devices.

How did you snag John Sculley for your management board?
DS:
Well, I first met John at a YPO conference two years ago. I approached him after he'd given the keynote speech, explained to him what we were doing...and he really liked the idea, so he invited me and a consultant up to New York. We spent some time with John in New York and he ended up not only joining our board but becoming my mentor. He wound up investing in the company as well.

John, what was your first reaction when you met David?
JOHN SCULLEY:
Well, like he says, David and I met when I was giving the keynote speech, in interview format with Larry King, at a YPO event in Washington. To be frank, I've obviously met a lot of people over the years that have come up and introduced themselves to me for one reason or another, but that evening we ended up sitting next to one another at dinner and he started telling me his story - what his dream was and what he'd already done and why he thought it could work. And I became interested. I said if you're up in New York, stop by and see me. He came up to New York - I told him I'd give him 30 minutes. He wound up spending the entire day with me.

What do you look for, then, in a potential business partner?
JS:
First of all, I invest and work only with CEOs that are on their second company. I like to work with someone who already knows how to build a business successfully, so that he or she can focus on building that business, not on learning how to be a CEO. What impressed me about David was that he could really explain what he was able to do. And then as I have gotten to know him, I've found he's extremely good at many other things. One of the things that David is really good at is attracting very good people who want to work with him in his organization, and he can actually deliver the stuff that he is talking about. He's an amazing deal closer. He's one of those people who can go in and tell his story and persuade people why they ought to be a partner or a customer with him and he closes the deals. And these are very big deals. I don't think a week goes by where there isn't one or two big deals that David has just closed. So this is a guy who has demonstrated to me that he not only has a vision in a very hot space at the right time, but he knows how to deliver and he's doing it big-time.

David, what was your life like before InPhonic?
DS:
Well, I founded Sterling Cellular in my basement in 1993, and we grew it into one of the largest distributors of wireless phones in the U.S. before we sold it last year. What we did was to outsource service contract work for wireless carriers - some of our partners on the carrier side were BellSouth, Cellular One, Southwestern Bell, and AT&T. We built the distribution through a series of retail stores and through telemarketing distribution.

What about John, what kinds of things have you learned from him and his many years of experience?
DS:
Well, in all frankness, John's one of the brightest guys I have ever known when it comes to marketing and technology. He really has the ability to capture very complicated technology and to make it very simple, which is really the crux of marketing technology. He has taught me a lot about simplifying - delivering a solution that people can not only utilize but also understand.

What about bumps in the road - have there been any yet along the way in your relationship?
DS:
Not yet. John is one of the most amazing human beings I've ever interacted with - not only incredibly brilliant but also one of the nicest human beings you could ever meet. And for a guy who's considered by many to be an icon in the technology world, he's just an incredibly kind, nice person.

What expectations do you have for InPhonic as it continues to grow?
DS:
Our goal is to continue to grow InPhonic into the cutting-edge wireless technology company that we have come to be known as today. How's that for a line? The reality is that as wireless technology and communications expand and change, we want to be on the cutting edge of that. Plus we are going to have a big job over the next three to five years helping our clients and our future clients integrate their legacy systems into a wireless platform - that is what a big part of our mission is.

Do you feel that wireless as a technology differs from other phenomena, like the Internet and previous technology revolutions?
DS:
Much like a lot of technologies, wireless is an evolution of the Internet and other technologies that came before it. You know a lot of people try to make wireless very, very complicated; it's simply taking the wires away from what you are doing on the Internet. That's the holy grail in the wireless space. The trick to making it work in the U.S. is going to be switching from a circuit-switched world to a packet-switched world, and enabling enough bandwidth, so that the type of data connectivity that can come through high-bandwidth channels through the Internet will be able to be broadcast through wireless devices.

How do you propose to avoid the slowdown/meltdown of tech-stock prices we've been seeing already this year?
DS:
This is the third company I've built - and we started running this company from Day One on solid business principles, with real P&L considerations from the outset. It's not to be confused with one of those "dot-bombs." We didn't set out just to ramp up quickly, for example. We started our company, on the contrary, with the aim of building a business to achieve profitability. We haven't had to make a lot of definitive moves, to cut back expenses, or to change our formula. At the same time we're in a funding environment - we funded our last round in October and we'll have plenty of capital on hand to do everything we need to do over the next year.

David, what about you? What expectations do you have for InPhonic?
JS:
I'm frankly very bullish. I think that the biggest opportunities in wireless are going to be focused, first, on enabling business and enabling enterprises through solutions that really take advantage of communications. So the company is nicely positioned, with its ability to first take e-mail and then various future derivatives of it, like unified messaging services, and help enterprises to implement that on a customized basis.

Dave and his team are able to build private wireless networks and be the virtual wireless provider of this customized service for very large organizations that are doing MLM (multi-level marketing). I think e-mail is still a killer app. When you get to wireless, just as e-mail is a killer app for the wireline Internet, it's going to be even more so for the wireless world, with the one difference that with the wireless world, you want to be able to integrate e-mail back into your legacy systems if you're a large organization.

You also want to be able to customize it with various kinds of other time- or location-based information, like, Is my flight going to be on time?, How do I get directions?, all of those kinds of location-based information content. These are all the things InPhonic is set up to do.

So it really has soup-to-nuts, end-to-end solutions and services, which puts it ahead of the curve in that we can really deliver these services and are getting real traction with real revenue.

How involved are you in the day-to-day operations of the company?
JS:
I am not in the management of the company, but we talk, probably at least three times a day. I'm more interested in being a mentor than being a manager. I can really be more valuable to David as a confidant and as an advisor, opening doors for business development opportunities and things of that sort, along with marketing strategies, giving him advice there as opposed to managing. That's how we work together. It seems to be working!

How about the same question that David answered earlier: Any bumps in the road with your working relationship?
JS:
Nope. Partly this is because I only work with people I like and with things that interest me. There has to be a mutual respect from the very beginning. Plus I think we've both learned that we're working together basically because we enjoy doing it. It's been a very natural and easy progression. I'm having a lot of fun and I hope David is, too.

SIDEBAR
who inphonic works with Carrier Partners:
AT&T Wireless
Verizon Wireless
Cingular Wireless
MCI WorldCom Wireless
Alltel Wireless
Suncom Wireless
Motient

Technology Partners:
Microsoft
IBM
Cisco Systems
Compaq
Exodus
Brience
Xpedior
CELLIT
Compaq

Service Providers:
Arthur Andersen
Piper Marbury Rudnick & Wolfe
MWW Group
Metrocall
Appiant
iSyndicate
Advertising.com
WindWire

e-Business:
85 top-tier sites including:
Lycos
Quixtar
Kozmo
Snowball
Sandbox
Talk City

Enterprise:
Quixtar

SIDEBAR
company background
Founded in 1999 by David Steinberg, former CEO and founder of Sterling Cellular, InPhonic has become the premier B2B solutions provider in the development and management of private wireless networks. As a wireless infrastructure provider, InPhonic enables its e-business and Enterprise clients to deliver wireless data and mobile commerce solutions to their end users through a combination of wireless and Web-based platforms, products, and services in order to maximize the communication and monetization opportunities created within each private wireless network.
Complemented by an unrivaled fulfillment capability that includes device configuration and activation, InPhonic provides a comprehensive distribution network and back-end support program to companies seeking to implement value-added wireless services. InPhonic offers its client companies the capacity to distribute wireless phones, wireless services, two-way pagers, and PDAs.

InPhonic has forged alliances with an expansive group of wireless device manufacturers and carriers including AT&T, Verizon, Cingular, MCI, Nokia, Motorola, RIM, and Ericsson.

InPhonic's president and CEO, David Steinberg, has an accomplished career in the wireless telecommunications industry. He founded Sterling Cellular from his basement in 1993 and grew the company into one of the largest distributors of wireless communication products nationwide, including management and operation in excess of 40 retail points of distribution.

Talented professionals that have joined the management at InPhonic include John Sculley, former CEO of Apple Computer Inc. and PepsiCo, Tom Davidson Sr., CEO of Davidson Capital Group, and Bob Adelson, president of RAF NetVentures, one of the original seed investors in the Internet Capital Group.

http://www.inphonic.com

John Sculley is best known in the wired world for his 10-year tenure as CEO of Apple Computer, prior to which he'd been CEO of Pepsi-Cola Company for six years. Since 1997 John has been what he calls a "venture catalyst," with active holdings and participation in information, communications, and entertainment start-ups both in the U.S. and around the high-tech world. He divides his time between California and New York.

David Steinberg is founder and CEO of InPhonic, Inc., pioneer of Virtual Private Wireless Networks. He built his former company into a $25 million-dollar operation in just six years and has a history of creating cutting-edge distribution models for the wireless industry.

More Stories By Robert Diamond

Robert Diamond is the founder and editor-in-chief of BroadwayWorld.com, the premiere theater site on the net now receiving over 100,000 unique visitors a day. He is also the owner of Wisdom Digital Media - a leading designer of entertainment and technology web sites. He is also the lead producer on BroadwayWorld.com's consistently sold-out Joe's Pub concert series, and Standing Ovations benefit concerts. Diamond was also named one of the "Top thirty magazine industry executives under the age of 30" by Folio magazine. Robert holds a BS degree in information management and technology from the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University. Visit his blog at www.robertdiamond.com.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
The Internet of Things is a misnomer. That implies that everything is on the Internet, and that simply should not be - especially for things that are blurring the line between medical devices that stimulate like a pacemaker and quantified self-sensors like a pedometer or pulse tracker. The mesh of things that we manage must be segmented into zones of trust for sensing data, transmitting data, receiving command and control administrative changes, and peer-to-peer mesh messaging. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Bagnulo, Solution Architect / Software Engineer at SOA Software, focused on desi...
"At our booth we are showing how to provide trust in the Internet of Things. Trust is where everything starts to become secure and trustworthy. Now with the scaling of the Internet of Things it becomes an interesting question – I've heard numbers from 200 billion devices next year up to a trillion in the next 10 to 15 years," explained Johannes Lintzen, Vice President of Sales at Utimaco, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"For over 25 years we have been working with a lot of enterprise customers and we have seen how companies create applications. And now that we have moved to cloud computing, mobile, social and the Internet of Things, we see that the market needs a new way of creating applications," stated Jesse Shiah, CEO, President and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 15th Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Gridstore™, the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built to optimize Microsoft workloads, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Gridstore™ is the leader in hyper-converged infrastructure purpose-built for Microsoft workloads and designed to accelerate applications in virtualized environments. Gridstore’s hyper-converged infrastructure is the industry’s first all flash version of HyperConverged Appliances that include both compute and storag...
"People are a lot more knowledgeable about APIs now. There are two types of people who work with APIs - IT people who want to use APIs for something internal and the product managers who want to do something outside APIs for people to connect to them," explained Roberto Medrano, Executive Vice President at SOA Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Today’s enterprise is being driven by disruptive competitive and human capital requirements to provide enterprise application access through not only desktops, but also mobile devices. To retrofit existing programs across all these devices using traditional programming methods is very costly and time consuming – often prohibitively so. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO, President, and Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., discussed how you can create applications that run on all mobile devices as well as laptops and desktops using a visual drag-and-drop application – and eForms-buildi...
We certainly live in interesting technological times. And no more interesting than the current competing IoT standards for connectivity. Various standards bodies, approaches, and ecosystems are vying for mindshare and positioning for a competitive edge. It is clear that when the dust settles, we will have new protocols, evolved protocols, that will change the way we interact with devices and infrastructure. We will also have evolved web protocols, like HTTP/2, that will be changing the very core of our infrastructures. At the same time, we have old approaches made new again like micro-services...
Code Halos - aka "digital fingerprints" - are the key organizing principle to understand a) how dumb things become smart and b) how to monetize this dynamic. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robert Brown, AVP, Center for the Future of Work at Cognizant Technology Solutions, outlined research, analysis and recommendations from his recently published book on this phenomena on the way leading edge organizations like GE and Disney are unlocking the Internet of Things opportunity and what steps your organization should be taking to position itself for the next platform of digital competition.
The 3rd International Internet of @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that its Call for Papers is now open. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the biggest idea since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago.
As the Internet of Things unfolds, mobile and wearable devices are blurring the line between physical and digital, integrating ever more closely with our interests, our routines, our daily lives. Contextual computing and smart, sensor-equipped spaces bring the potential to walk through a world that recognizes us and responds accordingly. We become continuous transmitters and receivers of data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Andrew Bolwell, Director of Innovation for HP's Printing and Personal Systems Group, discussed how key attributes of mobile technology – touch input, sensors, social, and ...
In their session at @ThingsExpo, Shyam Varan Nath, Principal Architect at GE, and Ibrahim Gokcen, who leads GE's advanced IoT analytics, focused on the Internet of Things / Industrial Internet and how to make it operational for business end-users. Learn about the challenges posed by machine and sensor data and how to marry it with enterprise data. They also discussed the tips and tricks to provide the Industrial Internet as an end-user consumable service using Big Data Analytics and Industrial Cloud.
Building low-cost wearable devices can enhance the quality of our lives. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Sai Yamanoor, Embedded Software Engineer at Altschool, provided an example of putting together a small keychain within a $50 budget that educates the user about the air quality in their surroundings. He also provided examples such as building a wearable device that provides transit or recreational information. He then reviewed the resources available to build wearable devices at home including open source hardware, the raw materials required and the options available to power s...
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP and chief architect at BSQUARE Corporation; Seth Proctor, CTO of NuoDB, Inc.; and Andris Gailitis, C...
There's Big Data, then there's really Big Data from the Internet of Things. IoT is evolving to include many data possibilities like new types of event, log and network data. The volumes are enormous, generating tens of billions of logs per day, which raise data challenges. Early IoT deployments are relying heavily on both the cloud and managed service providers to navigate these challenges. In her session at Big Data Expo®, Hannah Smalltree, Director at Treasure Data, discussed how IoT, Big Data and deployments are processing massive data volumes from wearables, utilities and other machines...
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Media announced that Splunk, a provider of the leading software platform for real-time Operational Intelligence, has launched an ad campaign on Big Data Journal. Splunk software and cloud services enable organizations to search, monitor, analyze and visualize machine-generated big data coming from websites, applications, servers, networks, sensors and mobile devices. The ads focus on delivering ROI - how improved uptime delivered $6M in annual ROI, improving customer operations by mining large volumes of unstructured data, and how data tracking delivers uptime when it matters most.
In this Women in Technology Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Anne Plese, Senior Consultant, Cloud Product Marketing at Verizon Enterprise, Esmeralda Swartz, CMO at MetraTech; Evelyn de Souza, Data Privacy and Compliance Strategy Leader at Cisco Systems; Seema Jethani, Director of Product Management at Basho Technologies; Victoria Livschitz, CEO of Qubell Inc.; Anne Hungate, Senior Director of Software Quality at DIRECTV, discussed what path they took to find their spot within the technology industry and how do they see opportunities for other women in their area of expertise.
While great strides have been made relative to the video aspects of remote collaboration, audio technology has basically stagnated. Typically all audio is mixed to a single monaural stream and emanates from a single point, such as a speakerphone or a speaker associated with a video monitor. This leads to confusion and lack of understanding among participants especially regarding who is actually speaking. Spatial teleconferencing introduces the concept of acoustic spatial separation between conference participants in three dimensional space. This has been shown to significantly improve comprehe...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, data security and privacy.
Performance is the intersection of power, agility, control, and choice. If you value performance, and more specifically consistent performance, you need to look beyond simple virtualized compute. Many factors need to be considered to create a truly performant environment. In his General Session at 15th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, discussed how to take advantage of a multitude of compute options and platform features to make cloud the cornerstone of your online presence.