i3 | June 02, 2022

Co-Founder and Chair, Ice Mobility, Denise Gibson

Cindy Loffler Stevens

With over 30 years in the wireless industry, Denise Gibson has a wealth of Fortune 100 executive leadership and P&L experience, coupled with insight in creating, operationalizing, and growing businesses. She is a successful entrepreneur having created and rapidly scaled two start-up companies. She co-founded Ice Mobility in 2014. Based in Lincolnshire, IL, Ice Mobility is a global supply chain solution provider specializing in planning, inventory performance management and category management for third party logistics, reverse logistics and distribution fulfillment. The company specializes in innovating solutions and managing an array of wireless and technology devices and accessories.

The Ice team has a strong culture of giving back. “Ice Cares” enables employees and partners to support charities such as the American Heart Association, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Supporting our Veterans, and Swim Across America.

Previously, she was the founder and CEO of Brightstar US, and before that vice president of U.S. Markets for Motorola. She engages in multiple independent corporate board roles with her strategic, technology, and financial acumen. Gibson is currently serving as an Independent Director for Orica Limited, VOXX International, and Aerial Technologies. She previously served as an Independent Director at ORBCOMM. Denise also serves on CTA’s Board of Industry Leaders, as CTA Foundation Chair Emeritus, CTAPAC Executive Board, the Audit Committee, and the Diversity Investment Committee. Previously she served on CTA’s Executive Board, as chair of the wireless board and vice chair at the Wireless Association (CTIA). She is on the Advisory Board of the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship at Drexel University.

Denise Gibson

Gibson shared her thoughts with i3 recently.

Q .What is Ice Mobility’s business model?

A. Ice Mobility is a proven world-class wireless technology supply chain solutions and logistics leader. We are also a manufacturer of wireless accessories. Ice Mobility supports a diverse portfolio of scalable and customized products and services and we remain at the forefront of 5G’s massive connectivity potential. Our broad and flexible distribution and 3PL services, coupled with our reverse logistics center of excellence and real-time supply-chain planning tools, are creative, flexible and specialized for manufacturers, carriers and retailers. Beyond the boilerplate of what we do, is a deep entrepreneurial spirit to provide leading service and customization to our clients. Ice Mobility was founded to fulfill the need of businesses needing a partner that can offer more than a one-size-fits-all distribution service. We bring these services to a personal level and listen to the needs of our clients and scale what we do to their needs.

Q. How have supply chain challenges impacted your business and your customers?

A. Beyond the supply chain challenges, the last few years have been extraordinary for everyone. Resiliency and the ability to quickly pivot are part of my DNA and our DNA at Ice Mobility, and it serves us well. It also allowed us to serve and counsel our customers the last few years. The supply chain challenges will continue, but the nature of the challenges will shift. Whether it is pandemic related, interruptions in the entire supply chain eco-system (truck driver shortages, strikes at the ports or geo-political) — it will be something. At Ice Mobility, we fulfill a critical role. Our technology, processes and people make it possible for our clients to move forward more confidently knowing we will find an answer and rise to the occasion on their behalf. 

Funding diverse technology entrepreneurs is an area that I am particularly passionate about. Only about 2.3% of venture capital investments go to female entrepreneurs.

Q. Where do you see the biggest opportunities in the industry?

A. Radical expansion of consumer electronics is coming with 5G connectivity. Everything we engage with where we live, work and travel is evolving towards higher levels of technology and connectivity. There are also great opportunities for new business development. We need to think creatively as to how we integrate with builders, designers, and manufacturers and make them part of the process on how we plan and design with technology in mind. It’s a great opportunity at CTA to think about how we embrace new verticals of service providers and leaders that may not have thought of themselves as needing to be a part of a technology association.

Q .How can companies best diversify their workforce?

A. True diversity extends far beyond gender and race to include thoughts, geographies, and specializations. There are many studies that show companies with diverse and inclusive leadership teams drive greater innovation and business results. Throughout my career, I’ve advocated an approach for achieving a diverse workforce. First, be personally committed to a diverse workforce and assure that your company culture thrives on, and applauds, inclusion of diverse experiences and ideas. Drive diversity from the top of your team, not solely from the bottom. Infuse diversity at mid and top management levels as studies show that a diverse manager attracts a diverse team. Additionally, be creative and rethink the norm that all employees need college degrees. Consider and pursue specialized hands-on technical schools, seek out veteran’s organizations, identify opportunities to conduct project work and hire from organizations that support individuals with disabilities. Simply put, think of the mission as bringing the broad diversity that exists outside the company in.

Q. As Chair Emeritus of the CTA Foundation, what are some of its accomplishments?

A. I have the great privilege of serving on multiple boards — public companies, private and non-profit organizations. My work with the CTA Foundation provides the greatest personal reward. The Foundation is addressing the critical role that technology can play in combating loneliness and isolation. If the pandemic has taught us anything as humans, it’s the extreme importance of connection to others for our physical and emotional well-being. The foundation provides grants to organizations that link seniors and people with disabilities with technologies that enhance their lives. Thousands across the U.S. have benefited from technologies that decrease isolation, provide independence and create vital connections. ITN America is a great example. The foundation has provided early-stage grants to enable the software development for this ride share service. The program, deployed primarily in rural areas, matches volunteer drivers with seniors and vision impaired individuals. The success of this program is attracting additional major donors and government funding which will assist in deploying this technology across their nationwide network. There is still much work to be done, making the Foundation’s advocacy around this topic so important.  

Q. With your diverse experience, what advice would you give to entrepreneurs?

A. Be fearless and be prepared to fly without a safety net. Fear of failure will stifle your success. Be passionate — it’s an important daily reminder, that no one is or will be more committed to your success than you are. And be smart — you can’t have all the answers so know your strengths and weaknesses. Find people to advise or employ that are far smarter than you and these gifted individuals can be invaluable in your future ventures. Be prepared to pivot quickly, the plan you started with is likely not the path your business will take. It’s an entrepreneurial reality, that seeking and managing funding will be as time consuming as running your new business. From day one, creating a money runway and functioning on a shoestring are key. Many great ideas fail to be commercialized due to insufficient funding. Innovation is often fueled by entrepreneurs, and funding diverse technology entrepreneurs is an area that I am particularly passionate about. Only about 2.3% of venture capital investments go to female entrepreneurs. As a leader in impacting this dynamic, CTA’s Diversity Investment Fund is investing $10 million of capital into venture firms and funds focused on technology startups founded by women, people of color and other underrepresented entrepreneurial groups.