An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Kevin Ross (founder, chairman, and CEO) of WeLink, which was honored in our:
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Utah
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Lehi
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Utah
- 2021 Best Tech Startups in Lehi
Tell us the origin story of WeLink – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
It started in 2003 when I was selling AT&T broadband door to door. It was the first time anything other than dial-up was available and when I first had the idea to develop my solution. I then spent the next seven years as an entrepreneur and was way too early, with lots of failure with a handful of small successes mixed in along the way. That led to me founding WeLink in 2018.
The fundamental problem WeLink is solving is digital equity. There is not much choice of broadband in our local neighborhoods. There’s typically one dominant provider, and the fastest networks are built in the highest income locations. Most broadband providers see it as a risk to build expensive infrastructure in low income areas. The technology we’re developing at WeLink is incredibly cost-effective, which means we can offer high-end broadband services at an affordable price while maintaining profitability, even in low-income areas (e.g. inner city communities in the U.S. or developing countries).
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
In the early days, while we were still working on the technology and ecosystem we use today, we needed people to believe in WeLink and the tech we were developing. I spent most of my time convincing people to believe in the tech so they would focus on building products and semiconductors we needed for WeLink’s disruptive, next-generation fixed wireless broadband. The next thing was to convince investors to buy into a new approach and get the technology to the right cost point. Although this was challenging at first, this has become much easier with the traction we’ve achieved. Lastly, we needed to build scalable processes, systems, and an operations team to launch WeLink to success. I am proud to say all those challenges are finally behind us, and we are focused on growth and expanding into many new markets and cities worldwide.
What does the future hold for WeLink?
This year, WeLink will be getting to multi-gigabit symmetric end-user speeds. It’s very important to dispel the myth that fixed wireless broadband is not as fast as ground fiber. We will be able to offer multi-gigabit internet over wireless. Over time, you’ll see that go to 10 gigabits per second, combined with our focus on low income, inner city communities. We are also expanding into developing nations through partnerships. WeLink is dedicated to democratizing the internet and connecting people. Most importantly, WeLink aims to close the digital divide.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Lehi?
The tech startup scene in Lehi is incredible and basically exploded overnight. I’ve been in Utah since 2012, and none of it was here back then. There are a lot of innovative entrepreneurs, smart people, entrepreneurial spirit, and high-quality talent in Lehi. I think that you will see more and more innovative startups coming through Lehi and Utah in the coming years.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
My single biggest advice is if your primary motivation is personal financial gain, then you’re fundamentally starting from the wrong spot. Being an entrepreneur is very difficult, and it doesn’t matter how much funding you have, how good your team is, or how good your ideas are – you’re going to run into significant challenges. It requires a tremendous amount of tenacity. Starting with the right motivations is key to having the persistence necessary to get through the tough spots. Do something that creates value for the community, and where there’s a larger sense of purpose. Consider what you’re doing, how it matters, and how it will impact people’s lives. Second, love what you do. It took me 17 years of ups and downs and many failures to get where I’ve gotten today. Had I not loved the problem I was solving, I don’t know that I could have persisted through the failure. Lastly, be prepared for being an entrepreneur. It’s not fame – it is a ton of work and uncertainty, with lots of ups and downs. You must be prepared for the long haul and expect challenges. How successful you are is determined by how you respond when the challenges come.