1st big internet project: an ISP called OlyWa.net (acquired my web design / training biz) then acquired by a weird NorCal telcom who imploded messily… later sorta resurrected as Zhonka – media archive lives here
In 2000, my colleagues and I sold a remarkable Internet service provider company (OlyWa.net) to it what turned out to be an evil (CLEC) telephone company (ATG) with big promises and lousy execution by entitled old bastards in Northern California… There’s a longer story there but… for now: the next year it was clear they wanted rid of us “Internet hippies” and targeted me as the “weak link” and I made it easy for them by well, roasting out at a company sponsored golf tournament… I mean it was wasn’t really a cultural fit.
Anyway, they called me in to a vice president’s office (who clearly had serious Vietnam-induced PTSD issues) with an bumbling HR guy who had come up from California to hand me a form to take a drug test. I had showed up late for the appointment, dressed in overalls, listened to their nonsense, took the form, and considered options.
My friend/manager was with me, he immediately put me on “administrative leave,” I then contacted/met a lawyer I knew through my hemp activism – he told me he would take care of it pro bono and best thing for me to do is lay low.
So, that night back at the hockey lounge, I fired up the then-new Priceline and basically spun the dial on somewhere to go and ended up on Belize for $420 leaving forthwith.
I arrived in Belize city, immediately switched to a small plane to a little island Caye Caulker, met a nice girl from Ohio on the plane who directed me to some cabins in the dark. I paid eight dollars for the first night, woke up the next day and went and told the boss man Ruben that I would pay in advance for 10 days but please let me know the day before so I would remember to go to the airport.
I dwelt amongst the people of the island, watching the tourists come and go, making some friends, dealing with some fakeass Rasta jerks trying to take advantage, managed a terrible in-grown toenail, learned about coconut rum, ate lobster burritos and got in the water some to swim with smalls sharks (I was still dealing with a broken wrist from a hockey injury).
Most importantly I read a mighty hardback edition of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “War and Peace” from cover to cover. My friend/manager had stopped off at a find used bookstore in Tacoma en route to dropping me off at the airport (surreptitiously) and this mighty tome became my guide as I learned that “patience and time are our greatest allies” and sometimes you have to let things burn in order to win the long game.
I came back from the sojourn expecting to be fired but the lawyer had done a fine job (in brief: realizing that everywhere in the company’s policy where “drugs” were mentioned, “alcohol” was also mentioned and as such, at the golf tournament, the company was providing Dixie cup sized shots of cheap whiskey by a golf cart all over the place putting everyone in the same violation territory as me).
The vice president guy and HR guy were furious, scolded me, offered me counselling, i smiled and nodded, and then asked me not to tell anyone in the company about this which, of course I immediately did.
A few months later we settled with the company for some sorta/ not really, graceful exit. Elsewhere in this archive are a few related newspaper articles and interviews about this incident in general.
PS This incident also sparked an extended research essay/treatise about workplace drug testing and an exploration into going to law school which fortunately, never materialized.
Zhonka co-founders on 40 under 40 List(new window) – feature article by Paul Schrag from Business Examiner details achievements by 40 area business leaders under 40 years of age including Zhonka’s Jacob Stewart and Dave Olson 6/23/03
Article from The Olympian (new window) – newspaper article about Zhonka Broadband by Alex Goff w/ pic of Dave, Jay and Kenny Trobman at the Clubside Cafe 3/21/03 – Photo by Steve Bloom /The Olympian
Not sure if you saw this but … a few month’s back, my colleague and co-conspirator at Zhonka! was at it again with a wise and insightful bit of commentary on the unnecessary hassle imposed on ISPs who some think should pay the role of snoop and fink. Jay’s commentary is below form his blog post Yet More Business Press from Tuesday, November 21, 2006.
This is in response to the Attorneys General of many states, including Rob McKenna of Washington State, putting out a hot-air puffery press release (read the actual letter here) on how ISPs could help catch paedophiles, which is true, if we snooped on traffic and violated the privacy of our customers. Surely, there is a better way to protect children than turning our country into a “Big Brother” police state, where ISPs and telephone companies keep records of activity and data forever, so that the “authorities” can sift through it long after it would have protected any children. Law enforcement needs to start doing it’s job, and stop hassling poor (and brown) people. Anyway, I think these are some of my best quotes ever published in the print media, and am proud to been able to speak out against this kind of fishing expedition.
Some people in the industry , however, see no problem with offering free wireless Internet access, believing that if a customer can pay for a mocha and owns a laptop, they can probably order a second drink, too.
Dave Olson, minister of marketing at Zhonka, in Olympia, Wash, sell DSL Internet connections to a variety of companies (mostly cafes) in Olympia and throughout the Pacific Northwest. Cafe managers then turn around and offer wireless Internet to their coffee and tea sipping customers at no cost. “For us, it’s a good marketing ploy,” he says. “It promotes us in the community and puts out a lot of marketing goodwill. A year or so ago, it was mostly pay-per-use. Now people are drifting more toward doing the free thing.”
With an Internet line and a piece of hardware that processes the signal, cafes can be up and running in no time. The initial set-up cost is between $30 and $50, according to Olson.
He believes pay-per-use Internet access turns customers off because they have to spend time entering their credit card information onto a home page and might have to make immediate decisions about the number of minutes or months they want to subscribe. Also, the fee to jump on the Internet might seem silly to some people when they have plunked down money for a mocha and pastry, and perhaps plugged a parking meter for the time they are in the cafe. “You’re already in there paying for premium beverage and a place to sit, ” says Olson.
Wireless Net links spread
Libraries join Wi-Fi trend
BY KATHERINE TAM, THE OLYMPIAN
Free wireless access began popping up downtown about three years ago, when Dave Olson and Jacob Stewart launched Zhonka Broadband. They were looking to join with cafes to provide free Internet access. They started out by asking merchants they knew.
“People said ‘What are you talking about? Who’s going to use it? This is nuts,’ ” Olson said. “But they said ‘OK.’ ”
The idea took off. The clientele changed at the 4th Ave. Tav, where people began coming in at the noon hour for lunch and free Wi-Fi, he said. Today, the laptop has become a fixture in coffee shops.
“It creates a third place,” Olson said. “You’ve got your office and your home. Sometimes you need to get away from the distractions and escape.”
Wi-Fi hot spots aren’t widely publicized — though Zhonka publishes a list online — but people have found a way to locate them. Banner said she looks for the distinctive “Zhonka” sticker in shop windows or looks for other laptop users. Word has spread through word of mouth for Caffe Vita, Fink said.
Popular Science magazine ranked Seattle and Olympia as number one and two respectively for having the highest national percentage of Internet customers.
The magazine credited the cities’ relatively high number of free wireless access points as a major reason for the high rankings. It also credited the two cities for bucking a national trend for wireless hotspots to charge users a fee for the service.
Olympia-based Zhonka Broadband maintains several free wireless spots in the South Sound region. Company spokesman Dave Olson said it allows the company to showcase its high-speed DSL technology while businesses with the hotspots find that they help to attract customers.