It’s with a bit of a heavy heart that I write to say I’ll be leaving Skyrove as CEO at the end of February 2012.
While still a student in 2003, I started working on a cheap and easy-to-use system that would allow anyone to share their internet connection using Wi-Fi, while at the same making money from it, automatically paid into their bank accounts at the end of each month.
I launched Skyrove as a business in 2005 with my friend Allister Kreft, shortly after graduating from university and getting married at the same time! (me, not Allister…) We had no funding to start the business and no real prior business experience so it was the purest form of bootstrapping you could imagine. I rented a 5 bedroom house in Observatory, sublet 4 of the bedrooms so that I didn’t have to pay rent for myself or for Skyrove, which used the attic as offices! (Garages are so 1970s)
We grew from strength to strength, raising finance from overseas and local angels and from a few small VC rounds. We went through many trials and tribulations and I grew tremendously as person. Today Skyrove is a profitable company with a well recognized brand with a great team of people and the best Wi-Fi products and services in the market.
But Skyrove has also grown up to be much more than a place where I could realise my dreams. It became a company with processes, procedures and SLAs and, truth be told, I found myself being stretched too thin and getting involved in minor operational issues on a daily basis rather than tackling the Big Hairy Audacious Goals I set out to.
And because of this intricate involvement, I started to realize that I became a barrier to Skyrove reaching its fullest potential. It became time for Skyrove to graduate into the big leagues.
In October last year, I told my board of directors of my feelings and how I see Skyrove becoming a much bigger, much stronger company, but without me at the helm. In an ideal world, I would step back into a CTO & Product Development role, but ultimately I realized that I would not be able to hand over the reins to a new leader if I was also looking over his or her shoulder.
I will still be involved in Skyrove as a director and will continue to help maintain some key client relationships. Michael Leeman will step in as an interim CEO while we continue to look for a new rockstar!
I am also proud to announce that Helen Mizon will become Skyrove’s new COO. Helen started with us as an administration assistant 5 years ago and moved up the ranks through bookkeeper, financial manager, operations manager and Skyrove’s “mum”.
We are looking to hire enterprise sales people, engineers and various support staff in the coming months as Skyrove increasingly moves into solving enterprise Wi-Fi challenges. We will continue work on some of the Wi-Fi billing systems we’ve developed and we’ll be launching some new products in partnership with some of South Africa’s largest ISPs.
There have definitely been nights I’d worry about Skyrove’s future without me, but the fact is that Skyrove is in better shape than it’s even been before. If it wasn’t, I’d probably have a much more difficult time “letting go”.
So what next? I’ve been yearning towards Technology in Education for a long time now. An opportunity came along to join TENET, the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa, to head up a TV white spaces pilot programme linking schools in the Western Cape to the internet using new “Super Wi-Fi” technology.
I’ll work at TENET 4 days a week, and will spend the 5th helping Cape Town startups, working on new ideas and playing cricket with my son, Jack!
I have to give a big Shout Out to everyone who has helped me turn my Big Dream into a reality. To my co-founders who believed in me and my vision, to my family who had to put up with seeing me for only fleeting moments each day, to the many journalists who wrote about Skyrove and our story, to my friends and mentors who I could call on at all hours of the day, to the investors who put in their own hard-earned cash to grow the business, to every employee who ever gave their commitment to Skyrove and made it a fun place to work at and most importantly, to every customer who showed faith in my team and my product, gave us feedback to improve and then referred their friends to us.
So long, and thanks for all the fish!
24 February 2012