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INTERVIEW: Boingo CEO Talks Wi-Fi and Disruptive Tech

Kelsey Pommer, Sr. Coordinator, Digital Media Marketing, Consumer Technology Association (CTA)™

The tech industry is one that never stays the same for long. Companies are constantly evolving and changing to push the limits of what technology can do. That’s why the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) has formed their Disruptive Innovation Council – to support the growth of innovative companies that are disrupting new business models and creating new markets.
We had the chance to speak with Dave Hagan, CEO of Boingo, one of the companies rounding out the Disruptive Innovation Council. Here’s what he had to say about his start in the tech industry, disruption and where Boingo is going next.

Image provided by Boingo
How did you get your start in the technology industry?
“I began my career in ad business working for a top Midwest agency. One of my first clients was United Telecom, the predecessor to Sprint. They hired me a couple of years later, so I switched sides of the desk.
I was with Sprint for 15 years, first in the U.S. and then in Canada where I launched the Sprint brand in 1994. After five years in Canada working in telecom, I decided I wanted to get into the Internet, because it was clear to me that it was going to be a major force for years to come—that it was going to disrupt how everything and everyone was connected.
So, I joined IAC/InterActiveCorp., Barry Diller’s interactive commerce conglomerate. Diller is known for disrupting businesses and was one of the first media moguls to pivot to the Internet. At IAC, I was COO and President of TicketMaster and Citysearch, the first online city guide.
Then Boingo came calling and it was an opportunity that linked my past with the future—telecom and the Internet. So in 2001, my journey with Boingo began and over the past 14 years Boingo has grown from a tiny LA start-up into the world’s leading small cell company.”
What were your main initiatives when you were first appointed CEO of Boingo Wireless? What are they now?
“As I mentioned, Boingo was founded in 2001, and we launched service in 2002. But the business model wasn’t working, so job one when I became CEO in 2004 was to figure out a business model that worked. In those days, Boingo was a pure network aggregator and software company, the software was designed to allow users to move from one Wi-Fi hotspot to another, simply and easily.
I changed the strategy to become a network operator of Wi-Fi networks, because that’s where the value was, not in network aggregation. Boingo acquired Concourse Communications in 2006, which launched us into the airport vertical as a network operator.  In 2014, we acquired Endeka, a company that provides broadband on U.S. military bases. Now, it’s a significant business driver for our company—providing Wi-Fi and IPTV to the Air Force, Army and Marines.
My focus as CEO is to make sure we have the right strategy and resources in place to continue to build the company. We’ve grown beyond airports into stadiums and arenas, both professional and collegiate, other large scale venues and most recently into the military vertical.”
You recently joined CTA’s new Disruptive Innovation Council. Why did you feel compelled to join the council?
“It’s always great to be around the table with other disruptive companies and executives. It’s where the best thinking is being done and where change originates. The companies on the council are leaders and disrupters. I am proud that Boingo is participating with Google, Uber, Lyft, MC-10, Nest, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Expedia, among others, all smart leaders who are creating change.”  
How is disruptive innovation important to the tech industry?
“Nearly every tech company is involved in some form of disruption. It’s a case of either disrupt or get disrupted, so I’d rather be on the disrupting end of it. It’s vital for any company to be innovative and disruptive, otherwise they won’t exist in the future.”
What is next for Boingo Wireless?
“Building wireless networks and infrastructure to deal with exponential mobile data growth is still in the early stages, so we’ll continue to secure wireless rights at major venues that need better connectivity, and we’ll continue to build wireless networks that help people connect to the people and things they love. It’s become a Wi-Fi first world, and Boingo is right in the middle of it. And that, feels very good indeed.”
Learn more about CTA and the Disruptive Innovation Council.