A: Depending on how you count them – e-mail accounts, unique billing customer, number of dial-up/DSL lines, etc. – 3,000 is a good round number. Most were residential users, followed by organizations/agencies and businesses third.
Q: What were the conditions in the company and the economy that led you and the other partners to believe the time was right to sell in 2000?
A: It was really more of a condition of our internal growth curve. We hadn’t totally saturated our local market but knew there were other products and markets to pursue, and also that we had the knowledge and experience to expand OlyWa into other markets throughout the Northwest.
We drew up a plan and shopped options, from venture capitalists and private investors to being courted by communications companies who had designs on merging with, or outright purchasing OlyWa.
Q: Was it a smooth transition?
A: Immediately after the merger, not much changed as we worked with our new parent company to devise a plan that ensured that the customer experience was not diluted but rather enhanced.
A problem arose when the parent corporation didn’t immediately incorporate a clear plan or have a defined interest in fully serving home users. Our input and ideas were mostly ignored or unbudgeted.
The business customers were a bit surprised about the pressure to change to an integrated telecommunications package, including a long-term contract, especially since OlyWa had never really used a sales force and certainly not any kind of high-pressure sales that had become the norm.
There were also a number of deployment and billing issues, both internal and external, that certainly left a few disenchanted customers. These service discrepancies were frustrating for us, since we were used to finding ways to satisfy the end-user.
As for the supported community non-profit organizations, most of them were cut or sent invoices. That was perhaps the most painful for me personally, since it is something I took pride in.
Q: What have you done with your share of the proceeds from the OlyWa sale, which was two-thirds stock and one-third cash?
A: The two-thirds stock sits in my safety deposit box, mocking me, and the one-third cash was used to pay bills, a few home improvements and a bit a traveling with my lady friend.
Q: What kind of restrictions did you have to adhere to as part of the sale?
A: I and the other operating partners had to join the parent company as employees and work specifically on migrating customers to the parent company’s network, which turned out to be a tricky proposition.
Q: What caused you to leave your job at ATG last June?
A: It seemed there was internal and cultural confusion on how to handle the OlyWa “tribe,” and what credence to give our ideas, plans and whatnot – kind of a square peg-round hole situation.
Some of our Internet colleagues at corporate HQ were squeezed out. We began to feel we were unwitting pawns, rather than “bright, innovative Internet minds,” which is how they’d described us when we were negotiating the merger.