By Kevin Volz
Founded in 2010, the core mission of Agile Networks is to provide internet connectivity throughout the state of Ohio. Whether a customer is located in the most remote, rural area of the state or 10 minutes from the center of a city, Agile Networks is able to get them online and keep their data secure. Their technology uses a combination of data centers, communication towers, fiber-optic cables, microwaves and wireless technology.
Thanks to the company’s efforts, Ohio has become the first in the nation to offer statewide gigabit internet, a supercharged type of internet offering speeds 100 times faster than what most people currently have access to. Internet speeds of that caliber would have been unheard of in rural parts of the state even five years ago.
“You look at areas like southeastern Ohio, where a lot of the infrastructure is lacking from a telecommunications perspective,” said Kyle Quillen, co-founder and CTO of Agile Networks. “Since we have installed communications sites all across the state, we have the capability to deliver this type of quick internet service.”
Quillen says their business would not be in existence today had it not been for the early funding it received from NCT Ventures, a central Ohio partner of Ohio Third Frontier, and a $2 million loan the company was awarded in 2014 from the Ohio Development Services Agency. He sat down with us to discuss the ins and outs of creating a startup that directly impacts the state, along with their plans for the future.
Q: What was the idea behind starting Agile Networks?
A: We identified a large need for communication support in Ohio’s rural markets. A lot of these communities were taking a single-purpose approach to internet, meaning that each public safety system, each communication provider and each corporation had their own unique internet network. We were able to leverage these existing single-purpose networks to create one multipurpose system that all these individual customers could use at once.
Q: Why haven’t your competitors succeeded at doing this in the past?
A: What we do is extremely difficult. You have to have a staff of very smart people, the right access to capital at the right time and the kind of vision and drive to think big and act big. It hasn’t been easy to get Agile Networks to where it is right now. We look at things in a much broader footprint than our competitors and I think that’s enabled us to deliver a broader solution.
Q: Is this solution more effective in rural areas?
A: We have a real impact in rural markets and do have a lot of customers in those communities, but we get a lot of requests for service in urban markets as well. You might not think it, but even businesses in city centers can have connectivity issues. We have an impact anywhere that getting access to solid connectivity is a real problem.
Q: How has your experience been working with the Ohio Development Services Agency and Ohio Third Frontier?
A: When we first started out, we were like every other startup, raising funds from our friends and families. Eventually we started talking to angel investors and institutional investors before ultimately working with Ohio Third Frontier. It has been an excellent partnership. The access to capital that they provide tech startups in the state is extremely beneficial and really helped our business reach the next level.
Q: How has Agile Networks grown since 2010?
A: We celebrated five years in January 2015 and have seen tremendous growth in the last 24 to 36 months. We originally began with just our three founders. We now have somewhere around 40 employees at Agile and we’re hiring new people all the time. We’ve been very happy with the talent pool in northeast Ohio. In addition, we have a ton of subcontractors, so indirectly or directly we have about 120 people who do work for Agile Networks on a recurring basis.
Q: Do you have any plans to expand outside of Ohio?
A: We’re actively looking at solving similar problems in other states. Our whole goal is to help people in areas with internet connectivity issues by evaluating their situation and hopefully figuring out how to fix their problem.