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Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success – Skyler Ditchfield

Grit, The Most Overlooked Ingredient of Success: “Lead by example” With Skyler Ditchfield CEO of GeoLinks and Phil Laboon

It’s imperative to never forget that you’re only as great as the team you’re surrounded by. Thus, lead by example. Meet with your team as much as you can and tailor how you communicate to each person individually. Become a leader they can believe in, and always make them feel valued.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Skyler Ditchfield. Skyler Ditchfield, Co-Founder and CEO of GeoLinks, the Fastest Growing Internet and Phone Provider in America. Within his company, Ditchfield is passionate about cultivating the best company culture around — one that combines respect, collaboration and a “best idea wins mantra.” His dedication and work ethic have earned him various accolades in including “Top Innovator in Diversity and Inclusion”, “World’s Top 5 Best Businessmen of 2017”, and 2018 “Entrepreneur of the Year”.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what events have drawn you to this specific career path

My“entrepreneurial roots” began at the age of six selling food, video games, lemonade, and basically anything else I thought people might buy, door-to-door and on the side of the road. One of my favorite stories to look back on was when I was about 7 or 8 and my elementary school decided to band candy. While other kids at school complained, I looked at this as an opportunity. I proceeded to buy candy off premise and sell it to my fellow students at a 1000% markup — I ended up bringing in about $30 a day, which in the early 90s was a lot! The school did eventually catch me, and I had to stop.

I first really dove into the world of technology at the age of 13 when I set up a bulletin board system (BBS) with my cousin, and no co-founder and CTO Ryan Hauf, to service 200 members of our local community with dial-up Internet. Throughout my childhood, I became increasingly fascinated with long-distance communications and computer networking. Directly after high school, I accepted a Network Engineer II job at the Private Network Management Center (PNMC) of MCI Worldcom in Silicon Valley servicing high-level clients such as JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Quotron, Reuters, and more. Although I was the youngest technician at the maximum-security PNMC, I was quickly promoted to Network Engineer III after exceeding the entire staff in router reprogramming. When the company relocated to the East Coast, I was one of two employees offered a transfer. Ultimately, I declined the offer and returned to Ojai where I proceeded to build a network business from scratch with $550 in startup capital.

While there were bumps along the road, my path was a natural progression to eventually starting my own ISP.

Can you share your story of Grit and Success? First can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?

Hard times have occurred all along the way, both personally and professionally. From a professional standpoint, when you first start a company, money is one of your biggest problems. You have to be able to have enough money to get your company off the ground while simultaneously supporting your family. As you get bigger, so do your challenges. Every time you hit new benchmarks, you have to reinvent yourself. This can be painful at times, such as outgrowing certain team members, completely overhauling a system or process, changing your direction etc. Some people have a hard time keeping up with that.

Luckily life experiences have enabled me to adapt quickly to change. From surviving multiple business failures that left me facing massive debt and ruined credit, to battling severe life-long health issues, each chapter in my life has taught me how to fight back harder and ultimately have the confidence to overcome anything. Being an entrepreneur undoubtedly requires grit — but if you can learn to own that, you will become successful.

Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

I have always believed in myself and listened to my intuition. For example, we reached a point about two years after starting our company, where we were literally just weeks away from being completely out of money. In my gut, however, I knew that there had to be a game-changing deal coming through any day; mind you, until you have a signed document in your hand, nothing’s real. Thus, I decided to follow my intuition and push the business ahead as usual, so we wouldn’t kill our fast-growing momentum. It turned out my gut was right, and we had a massive business-saving deal come through just days before we would have completely been out of all cash. When I find my back is against the wall, I feel empowered, because I know I have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

So how did Grit lead to your eventual success? How did Grit turn things around?

In addition to everything I’ve mentioned thus far, to be successful you have to be willing to do anything and everything to get your company off the ground. For example, when GeoLinks first started, I did everything from sales, to technical support, to helping built the network, to physically deploying installs. I was never afraid of the number of hours or work it took to accomplish something. Nonetheless, there are certain things you have to sacrifice that can be tough to stomach, such as time away from family. There has to be grit and determination in you to overcome that, or you’re not going to make it. There will always be challenges in businesses. Successful people fail many times over– those failures, however, become part of the growth of your business. You have to have grit to stomach those many storms and weather them.

So, how are things going today? 🙂

Busy! But everything I’m working on is very exciting.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 pieces of advice about how one can develop Grit? (Please share a story or example for each)

  1. Look at Past Successes — Look back on a time, no matter how small, where you thought things looked bleak and grim, yet you found your way out of it. Then build upon that as you embark on bigger challenges moving forward. For example, if I’m sitting here and looking at a 2 million budget shortfall with only a week to figure it out, I could view it as incredibly daunting. However, if I reflect back to when I was in a similar position but with only $200,000, and I remember how I overcame that challenge, I can use that to give me the confidence I need to solve this new problem.
  2. Do Research — The Internet is an amazing resource; read articles; search for case studies; see how people before you overcame challenges. Knowledge is power.
  3. Get Outside Opinions – This is something I consistently do, even if I don’t ultimately agree, other’s opinions can give you new perspective. I like to gather as much knowledge and feedback as I possibly can to ultimately shape and form my own stance — then, I make a decision, and own it.
  4. Get Physical — Not with others, but with yourself. When I push myself physically in the gym, for example, I mean truly wear myself down, I am forced to clear my mind and find a way to push through. This is a great reminder of the power of the mind, and that with enough concentration and grit, I am capable of pushing through anything.
  5. Own Your Mindset — Take a position that you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Own that mindset, and you will find a path out or way to success.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped you when things were tough? Can you share a story about that?

Our first investor that came in, Tom Krause, built a very successful company from scratch. While I believe I could have gotten here on my own eventually, his expertise and guidance have greatly accelerated my success. His innate ability to mentor objectively allowed me to bypass most entrepreneur’s steep learning curves. I am incredibly grateful for that.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Absolutely! GeoLinks has officially partnered with CENIC, AlertWildfire, WIFIRE, and others to deploy wildfire detection, prevention and situational awareness systems across California. Statewide expansion of this proven system would offer strategic advantages for early fire detection, situational awareness for first responders, fire mapping, predictive simulations, and evacuation planning. Rapid investment in this shovel-ready system would soon save lives, property, habitat, and infrastructure across California, and the state would see an almost immediate return on its investment. Additional partners that would benefit from this effort and so might be approached for financial support are the insurance industry, technology accelerators, and local community organizations. While we are deploying this system as we speak, we need further investment to take it state wide as quickly as possible.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Everything GeoLinks sets out to do — from closing the digital divide, to helping deploy wildfire detection, prevention ,and situational awareness systems, to offering pro-bono circuits to Red Cross shelters during times of disaster — is aimed at ultimately bringing goodness to the world. Yes, we are a business, so we must earn capital, but the way I see it, the more we grow, the more resources we have to help and give back.

What advice would you give to other executives or founders to help their employees to thrive?

In today’s modern workplace, culture is paramount in attracting and retaining top talent, thus it’s imperative to never forget that you’re only as great as the team you’re surrounded by. Thus, lead by example. Meet with your team as much as you can and tailor how you communicate to each person individually. Become a leader they can believe in, and always make them feel valued.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I founded GeoLinks with the mission to close the U.S. Digital Divide. I am determined to bring connectivity to every unconnected Anchor Institution in America over the next 7 years. To accomplish this goal, I am aggressively looking to change the landscape of Internet across America by influencing the reform of broadband funding and spectrum policy on both a state and federal level.

Outside of work, I would say help people better understand one another. I find that whenever it comes to politically charged debates, from republicans vs democrats, to gun control, to immigration, many times if you get the rhetoric and anger out of the way, people want the same thing, just want to go about it in different ways. Today’s media and climate has created such a charged environment, that we either shy away from topics or come across in an aggressive manner. Both of these are unproductive, and create a continuing divide among people. We need to come together, open our minds, and get a better understanding of one another.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s lifeLife is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

On twitter at @SkylerJesseD — or follow GeoLinks @GeoLinks_USA.

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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Personal Field Account from GeoLinks CTO, Ryan Hauf

Neither Snow nor Rain nor Heat nor Gloom of Night

GeoLinks CTO Ryan Hauf

As we delve into winter, field operations as a service provider can be tough, even grueling in some cases. Long hours, the cold, and sporadic weather can often present challenges in maintaining a state-wide network. Nonetheless, GeoLinks takes great pride and goes above and beyond in upholding its service uptime commitment to each and every one of its clients.

The following account is told by GeoLinks Co-Founder and CTO, Ryan Hauf.

After receiving word that a rural school in Redding that we had connected through GeoLinks’ partner CENIC had lost connection, the GeoLinks team, lead by Co-Founder and CTO Ryan Hauf, immediately set off to restore connectivity.

Matt Murphy [GeoLinks’ Lead Infrastructure Technician] and I left immediately Friday afternoon [in my personal work truck]. We arrived in Redding, California about 1:30am. Just before we pulled into the hotel, I found that I couldn’t get the manual transmission into gear. Coasting to the side of the road we noticed there was a LOT of heat radiating from the transmission, and we came to the conclusion that it had leaked out all its oil. After allowing it to cool for a little while it went into gear again, so we removed the shifter and dumped in about a quart of 90w gear oil (we could not install it the conventional way since that requires a pump which we didn’t’ have.) We were able to drive the rest of the way to the hotel.

After coming all the way we weren’t about to give up, so the next morning we decided that since it was still derivable, we’d give the hill ascent a try. We drove gently to the base of the hill and all seemed okay. About 1/4 of the way up the hill, I slowed down for a washout that was about a foot deep, when I pressed the clutch, it fell to the floor… Uh oh, the problems were getting worse! Of course the engine immediately stalled because I wasn’t prepared for the clutch not to disengage. We were now sitting, stuck in gear, with our front wheels in a washout. We figured we could restart the engine in gear if wheels were free, so we used a high-lift jack to lift the front of the truck. I started it, and let the truck “start/drive/roll” off the jack, which Matt pulled out of the way so we didn’t immediately run it over. We were off again, stuck in first gear, with no clutch, no way to shift gears, and potentially no way to re-start the engine if it stalled, depending on the location.

GeoLiks - Ryan Hauf - Redding

We continued to drive this way and the conditions got worse, deeper snow, very deep washouts, including one that was about 2′ deep, which the whole left side of the truck dropped into for about 200 feet. There was mud and snow flying everywhere from the tires; I had the engine redlined so it wouldn’t stall.

Some parts where the snow was deep it took us 10 minutes just to go 50 feet or so. Tires spinning, we’d slowly chew our way through the snow enough to get traction to drive up the incline.

Eventually, about half-a-mile from the top of the hill, we were in snow about a foot deep and the left side of the truck had fallen into a rut. Eventually we ran up against a rock or something hiding under the snow and we were stuck. At this point I called Steven (the repo man) to bring a truck and trailer up because we would be needing a tow home (and possibly off the mountain.) From there, we hiked the rest of the way to the site and repaired it (Matt actually hiked it twice since he went back to the truck for a replacement radio.)

We swapped the antenna and radio at the site, cleared the ice off the solar panels, applied rain-x to them to hopefully help with future icing, and then we headed back down to leave. It was about 3pm by this point. Once we got back to the truck, we jacked up the front to get it out of the hole it was in. We used a heavy duty ratchet-strap to “winch” it forward just enough to relieve tension from the transmission enough to get the shifter out of first and into reverse. Once in reverse, we started it as it fell off the jack again, and backed down the hill to a point we could do a 3-point turn around, which for obvious reasons was very tricky (no clutch). [Nonetheless] we got turned around and headed down the hill.
geolinks_redding

We limped the truck over to the school because it was still not connected, even though the tower was fixed. We assumed it was an alignment issue. Arriving just after dark, before long a few people from town showed up asking what we were doing there at night, on the roof… They were great and very helpful. Also very surprised at the extent we were going to in order to get their Internet repaired. We troubleshot at the school for a couple hours and they offered to take us to a hotel in town so we wouldn’t have to lip the explorer there with no clutch. We were stuck at this point – we  eventually got dropped off at the hotel around 11pm.

Steven (repo man) arrived at the hotel later than expected. 4:30am, to be exact, due to a fuel leak he had to fix on his truck on the way up at a truck stop gas station in the middle of the night with Macgyver parts. We left the hotel around 8am, and went to South Forks to retrieve an un-needed radio to be used as a replacement radio for the one at the school, which we had determined was bad.

Upon arriving at the school it seemed to be one issue after another, but finally, we were out of there by about 3:30pm, with connectivity successfully restored, against all odds and challenges!  We arrived back in town at 4am.

GeoLinks - Headed Home
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GeoLinks: Connecting Clients with Innovative Telecom Solutions

GeoLinks: Connecting Clients with Innovative Telecom Solutions

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company, competitive local exchange carrier, and regulated public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Digital Voice solutions. The company delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Digital Voice, SD-WAN, Cloud On-ramping, Layer 2 Transport, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers dedicated business-class Internet with unlimited bandwidth, true network redundancy, and guaranteed speeds reaching up to 10 Gbps. Named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is backed by a carrier-grade Service Level Agreement boasting 99.999% uptime and 24/7 in-house customer support. With an average installation period of 4 to 7 days, GeoLinks is proud to offer the most resilient and scalable fixed wireless network on the market.

Recognized as a thought-leader in closing the digital divide, GeoLinks proudly sits on an array of national boards, coalitions, and working groups including the Schools, Healthcare & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC), and the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s (BDAC) Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group.

The Passionate Leader 

Born in Ojai, California, Skyler Ditchfield is the Cofounder and CEO of GeoLinks, which is the No. 1 Fastest Growing Fixed Wireless ISP in the country, and Inc. Magazine’s Fastest Growing WISP in America. Nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Hosted Voice Solutions, and dedication to closing the U.S. Digital Divide, GeoLinks is determined to bring connectivity to every unconnected Anchor Institution in America over the next seven7 years.

To accomplish this goal, Skyler is aggressively looking to change the landscape of Internet across America by influencing the reform of broadband funding and spectrum policy on both the state and federal levels. Believing that action fuels influence, Skyler led GeoLinks to successfully connect more schools than any other ISP in both 2016 and 2017 and was an instrumental lobbyist in the passing of AB1665, the Internet for All Act, which brought $330m in new funding to the state of California.

Within his company, Ditchfield is passionate about cultivating the best company culture around—one that combines respect, collaboration, and a “best idea wins mantra.” Both his dedication to closing the digital divide and commitment towards developing an exceptional company culture have won Skyler a variety of accolades including “World’s Top 5 Best Businessmen of 2017”, “Top Innovator in Diversity and Inclusion,” and “2018 Entrepreneur of the Year”.

Thriving on Challenges 

According to GeoLinks, the telecom industry is heavily dominated by multi-billion dollar virtual monopolies that receive massive tax credits and federal subsidies. Furthermore, the regulatory landscape and funding on both the state and federal level are tilted heavily to favor these “incumbent” providers—furthering their “perceived” monopoly status. However, GeoLinks thrives on challenges, and are aggressively working to reform and overcome these obstacles. GeoLinks’ ongoing strategy is to out-maneuver incumbent providers in competitive markets nationwide by providing a quality of service they can’t offer and maintain, and by going after businesses they either don’t want or can’t service. It’s in GeoLinks’ DNA to consistently innovate new methods and technologies that pushes it far ahead of the crowd.

Tackling Bad Patches and Preparing for a Better Future 

In its early days, cousins and co-founders Ditchfield, CEO, and Ryan Hauf, CTO, decided that they will build their Internet Service Provider (ISP) business model to compete head-tohead with all the big guys—which was not very traditional for a smaller ISP provider. GeoLinks decided that to be successful and to make its goal of becoming a major national carrier a reality, they needed to penetrate the most competitive markets.

Over the past seven years, GeoLinks’ innovative flagship product, ClearFiber™, named “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards, the organization’s superior customer service, and its industry leading Service Level Agreement has led the organization to become the fastest growing telecom in California.

When reflecting on the company’s rapid growth, Ditchfield comments that every struggle has been unique in its needs and solutions. In the beginning, many of these hurdles were finance-based, as the telecom didn’t have a significant financial backer. The organization had to remain as fiscally responsible as possible and fold all its revenue back into the company. As a business, it has learned that being honest and putting customers first always pays off in the long-run. So even in the case of a wrong step, GeoLinks has admitted it, fixed it, and been able to move on swiftly.

In the near future, you can expect to see GeoLinks continuing to expand rapidly delivering gigabit and multigigabit access to new markets across the United States. This also includes working on new technologies and experimental spectrum to deliver gigabit speeds to residential clients. Furthermore, leadership plans to partner with like-minded organizations to expand into sensor networks and specific projects that encompass public safety, research, education, and much more

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GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ Network Named Most Disruptive Technology

GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ Network Named Most Disruptive Technology

Innovative Fixed Wireless Telecom, GeoLinks’, awarded “Most Disruptive Technology” in the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards

The Pacific Coast Business Times (PCBT), in partnership with the Office of Technology and Industry Alliances at UC Santa Barbara, officially published the winners of its 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards this past Friday, February 23rd. Established to ‘recognize a breakthrough that has the potential to disrupt a major industry or aspect of technology’, the regions’ ‘Most Disruptive Technology’ was awarded to GeoLinks for its innovative Fixed Wireless Network, ClearFiber™.

“The Pacific Coast Business Times is pleased to honor GeoLinks with the ‘Most Disruptive Technology’ award at the 2018 Central Coast Innovation Awards,” said PCBT Special Reports and Research Editor Chris Officer. “GeoLinks was awarded for standing toe-to-toe with big name wireless providers and causing disruption within the telecom industry.”

GeoLinks’ ClearFiber™ network is an innovative technology that brings cost effective symmetrical Internet access to anchor institutions and businesses across the state of California and beyond. Created by GeoLinks’ CTO Ryan Hauf and CEO Skyler Ditchfield, ClearFiber™ is the first fixed wireless solution to utilize renewable energy to generate telecom-grade broadband. By building state-of-the-art solar and wind powered telecommunications facilities, GeoLinks is able to build off the grid in a fraction of the time and for a fraction of the cost of fiber.

“Because we’re able to bypass lengthy permitting processes and infrastructure build-outs, we originally established the technology as a fast, green, and economical way to connect underserved rural communities,” said GeoLinks’ CEO Skyler Ditchfield. “And while GeoLinks continues to aggressively work towards our founding mission of closing the U.S. digital divide, shortly after Ryan and I founded the company, we realized that ClearFiber™ truly had the potential to disrupt the telecom industry as we know it. Thus, over the past seven years, we have obsessively improved and advanced the technology enabling us to rapidly expand into urban markets. Delivering up to 10 Gbps of dedicated enterprise-grade Internet with identical latency and jitter as fiber, ClearFiber™ now competes head-to-head in the B2B marketplace with the AT&Ts and Verizons of the world.”

With demand in its business, education, and government sectors rapidly increasing, GeoLinks’ executives don’t see an end in sight to the company’s growth.

“ClearFiber™ is actively redefining the way the industry looks at microwave technology,” said GeoLinks’ President Ryan Adams. “While we still have a way to go in completely eliminating what we call ‘fixed wireless anxiety’, GeoLinks is consistently proving that fixed wireless is a viable solution not only in closing the digital divide, but also in providing a truly reliable business-class alternative to fiber. Endorsed by prominent local, state, and federal officials and municipalities, we’re confident that ClearFiber™, in conjunction with our dedication to providing exceptional in-house customer service, will soon make GeoLinks a household name nationwide.”

GeoLinks, alongside fellow Central Coast Innovation Award winners, will be honored at an awards ceremony on Thursday, March 15 at Hotel California in Santa Barbara, California from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase online at Eventbrite.

“The Central Coast has become nationally recognized for the quality and diversity of the innovative technologies and startup companies it has spawned,” said Sherylle Mills Englander, Director of the Office of Technology and Industry Alliances at UCSB. “UCSB looks forward to working with the Business Times to honor and celebrate the breadth of Central Coast innovation and, through the Startup Village, give investors a sneak peek at the best and brightest technology companies emerging from our region.”

For media inquiries or interview requests, please contact Lexie Olson at lolson(at)geolinks.com.

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About GeoLinks

Headquartered in Southern California, GeoLinks is a leading telecommunications company and competitive local exchange carrier (CLEC) public utility, nationally recognized for its innovative Internet and Hosted Voice solutions. Ranked No. 5 by category on Inc. Magazine’s 2017 Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America, GeoLinks delivers Enterprise-Grade Internet, Layer 2 Transport, Hosted Voice, and both Public and Private Turnkey Network Construction expertly tailored for businesses and Anchor Institutions nationwide.

GeoLinks’ accelerated success is largely due to its flagship product, ClearFiber™, which offers customers fixed wireless on the most resilient and scalable network ever built. From land procurement, construction, permitting, and more, GeoLinks does everything in-house, expediting installation periods nationwide. Boasting ultra-low latency, up to 99.999% uptime, sub 10ms jitter, and a 4-hour max response time, GeoLinks prides itself on delivering the industry’s best Service Level Agreement backed by 24/7 in-house customer support.

Recognized as a thought-leader in closing the digital divide, GeoLinks proudly sits on an array of national boards, coalitions, and working groups including the Schools, Healthcare & Libraries Broadband (SHLB) Coalition, the Wireless Internet Service Providers Association (WISPA), the Broadband Consortium of the Pacific Coast (BCPC), and the FCC’s Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee’s (BDAC) Streamlining Federal Siting Working Group.

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Silicon Valley in Ventura County

Silicon Valley in Ventura County

Camarillo– based GeoLinks finds success in providing internet to underserved


LOUD AND CLEAR—Skyler Ditchfield, CEO of GeoLinks, has grown his Camarillo-based internet provider into a multimillion-dollar business. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspaper

LOUD AND CLEAR—Skyler Ditchfield, CEO of GeoLinks, has grown his Camarillo-based internet provider into a multimillion-dollar business. He was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce. BOBBY CURTIS/Acorn Newspaper

When Skyler Ditchfield was a child and his school banned sweets from the campus, he’d bring in candy to sell to his classmates.Even as a kid, the 36-year-old Camarillo resident had a knack for giving people what they wanted when the powers-that-be wouldn’t provide it.

Now he does the same thing for places that internet providers like AT&T have deemed too rural or remote for high-speed internet.

Ditchfield’s company, GeoLinks, began by providing fixed wireless internet connections to rural schools, hospitals, Native American reservations and other institutions using radio waves instead of cables and wires.

Ditchfield said that because large internet providers won’t run wiring to rural areas, thousands of people are being left behind in today’s fast-paced and interconnected world.

“We’ve brought internet into schools in communities that don’t have internet,” Ditchfield said. “These kids are usually in poor areas, being as rural as they are, and it’s giving them a real opportunity to utilize the internet at school, utilize state testing, have access to more educational materials and getting them included in what’s going on.”

As GeoLinks has grown, the company began moving into suburban and urban markets, competing directly with large corporations to supply internet to businesses and, to a lesser extent, homes across the state.

Now GeoLinks is expanding nationally. It’s the next logical step for Ditchfield, who uses his skills in business and technology to make GeoLinks run.

He spent most of his life working in telecommunications, including stints repairing computers in Ventura County and managing networks at the Silicon Valley offices of MCI Worldcom, where he helped clients like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs.

Seven years ago, Ditchfield founded GeoLinks with his cousin Ryan Hauf, who serves as chief technology officer.

As a hobby, Hauf set up a small wireless network to provide free internet access to about 40 people in Ojai. Ditchfield’s entrepreneurial mind saw the potential to make a profit.

“I said, ‘Do you want to make a business out of this and not make it a charity?’” Ditchfield said. “And he said yeah, so a month later, we were off and running and had three or four thousand dollars a month in billing.”

That’s peanuts compared to the $14.9 million the company says it earned last year. Ditchfield expects that amount to climb higher; GeoLinks has its eyes set on government contracts that are north of $170 million.

The company that began in Ditchfield’s weight room now has 49 employees and is looking for more to help fill the 38,000-square-foot building on Camarillo Ranch Road that Geo- Links moved into in July.

The office, once home to mobile game developer Zindagi Games, looks like a Silicon Valley headquarters. It features plenty of open space for the company to expand, as well as a gym, game room, full kitchen and indoor basketball court.

“We spend so much of our lives these days at work. You want to enjoy it, right?” said Lexie Olson, GeoLink’s director of marketing and communications. “For example, when I’m having a tough day, I like to take my lunch break in the gym. It promotes overall health, happiness and wellness, and we see increased productivity because of that.”

Olson, who was hired in June, said that while the amenities helped, the company’s success and family-like atmosphere convinced her to move from Los Angeles.

“I was attracted to the fact that there was a really cool, innovative startup in Ventura County that offered a really cool company culture,” she said.

Ditchfield said a healthy office culture contributes to a business’ success, but the customs of a successful business don’t come from an on-site gym or a stocked refrigerator in the kitchen.

“You don’t have to have this (facility and amenities) to build culture,” he said. “You have to have the right people and the right attitude and the right energy and leadership style. That’s where it all starts.”

It seems Ditchfield has found the right people; GeoLinks began to see the fruits of their labor in the past year. The company was named to the Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies in the United States in 2017, and this year Ditchfield was named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Camarillo Chamber of Commerce.

With this success, Ditchfield doesn’t want his employees to rest on their laurels. He said the company succeeds or fails together, so it’s important that everyone keeps working hard.

“We’re still a startup. We’ve still got to hustle and grind,” he said. “We shouldn’t be checking out at 4:45. If you’ve still got a project that needs to get done, stay and get it done because every dollar out of this company’s pocket is really a dollar out of each one of our pockets.”

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GeoLinks rebuilds sites with Mimosa gear as Thomas Fire burns in Southern California

GeoLinks rebuilds sites with Mimosa gear as Thomas Fire burns in Southern California

GeoLinks employees are literally putting out fires as they strive to replace damaged telecom sites throughout the area where fires are destroying homes and threatening lives in Southern California.

The company, based in Camarillo, which is in Ventura County, has been working around the clock since the Thomas Fire started on Dec. 4. At times, workers have used the fire extinguishers stored in emergency packs in company vehicles to douse hot spots they see along the way to fixing infrastructure.

As of Dec. 14, the GeoLinks team—some of whom have lost or damaged homes—had repaired 12 sites that were destroyed throughout Ventura and Ojai, accounting for more than 500 square miles of coverage area. The company uses licensed and unlicensed gear from Mimosa Networks.

“A lot of our employees live in these communities,” and they were evacuated, including one employee who was still working remotely even though he lost everything he owned, said GeoLinks employee Lexie Olson, who had to be evacuated in the middle of the night but whose home is still standing. “It’s something that is impacting our direct community in every way. It’s pretty intense.”

The company is in close communication with fire, police and National Guard teams so they know when it’s safe to go into a particular area for repairs. On Thursday, the fire took the life of a fire apparatus engineer from San Diego, the second death attributed to the blaze.

Olson estimated 40 GeoLinks people are out working in the field; the company employs about 60 and growing. In some cases, the GeoLinks gear was up and running and able to provide internet service to customers even before their electricity was restored, GeoLinks President Ryan Adams told FierceWirelessTech. That said, “we’re never going to put our employees in dangerous situations where we think they can get hurt,” he added.

Adams and CTO/co-founder Ryan Hauf were watching the situation as it started to unfold last week. “We felt it was our duty to assist folks,” to get back to normal as soon as possible, Adams said. “Our team has been working around the clock” with folks sleeping in the office and cars—but not for long. “We realize we have a responsibility as a telecommunications company to make sure that people have the ability to communicate.”

Adams said the service provider needed a workhorse and something that would support backhaul as well. “We’re big fans of the Mimosa brand,” he said. “We keep a really healthy stock of Mimosa equipment on hand.”

Mimosa’s gear works at 11 GHz licensed and 5 GHz license-free. Depending on the situation, a service provider could get Mimosa’s low-cost gear in the 5 GHz band out into the field right away, according to Mimosa co-founder and CMO Jaime Fink. Alternatively, if a client has more time, they can apply for a 11 GHz license, which may take three to four weeks per link.

Positioning itself as a disrupter going up against the “big four” carriers, GeoLinks was founded in 2011 and started offering fixed wireless internet to rural homes and people in the area who previously didn’t have access to high-speed internet, according to Adams. GeoLinks’ customers include residential and business customers; the company got its start in Ojai, which its where co-founder and CEO Skyler Ditchfield was born and where many employees live.

Ojai, population around 7,461, has been particularly hard hit by the fires.

Knowing that the weather and conditions could change in an instant, they’re watching things closely. “Fortunately we have the best fire departments, we have the best rescue crews and first responders,” Adams said. “I can’t say enough about the way Ventura County has come together.”

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50 Fastest Growing Private Companies 2017: Geolinks Building Broadband Access for Rural America

50 Fastest Growing Private Companies 2017: Geolinks Building Broadband Access for Rural America

Original article by Helen Floersh

No. 2: GEOLINKS
Camarillo

CEO: Skyler Ditchfield

Growth Rate: 335%

It has been a big year for GeoLinks, the No. 2 firm on the Business Journal’s 2017 list of the Valley area’s Fastest Growing Private Companies.

Besides updating its moniker to reflect its long-term ambitions – the business-to-business internet service provider changed its name in June from California Internet to GeoLinks, which it described as being better aligned with its goal of expanding its services nationwide – the company also settled into its new, 38,000 square-foot Camarillo headquarters and hired its 50th employee. Finally, GeoLinks made the 2017 Inc. 5000, ranking No. 5 in the telecommunications category and coming in No. 604 overall.

“For a lot of people, what sets us apart is how we’re different from the big guys,” Ryan Adams, GeoLinks president, said. “We decided that we’re going to do what we thought was in the best interest of our clients, first and foremost.”

So far, that mindset appears to be working. Geolinks has managed to more than double its revenue year over year since 2014, when it saw $2.2 million in revenue. It generated $8.8 million last year, according to the firm, and is on track to outperform itself yet again in 2017.

“Telecommunications doesn’t necessarily have to be an ugly word,” Adams said. “For us, it’s really about enhancing the customer experience and evolving with our clients as well. That’s where the big guys have a hard time.”

GeoLinks envisions itself as one day being the premiere provider of high-speed internet to rural communities throughout California and beyond. While just 10 percent of all U.S. citizens lacked access to high-speed internet in 2016, the figure climbed to roughly 40 percent for those living in rural areas, according to the Federal Communications Commission.

“It’s not just a buzz-term that we use, it’s our passion: Bridging the digital divide, which means bringing high-speed internet to everybody no matter what geography,” Adams said. “Studies have shown that people who have access to high-speed internet are more inclined to make more money and better education. These things are very important to us.”

Rural boom

New state legislation that establishes funds for the deployment of broadband projects in rural areas puts GeoLinks on track to expand its California business substantially. Chief Executive Skyler Ditchfield, who founded GeoLinks in 2011 with his cousin and Chief Techonology Officer Ryan Hauf, was one of the lobbyists behind the September passage of AB1665, or the “Internet for All Act.” Ditchfield has been working with the Corporation for Education Network Initiatives and other organizations to establish contracts with public institutions.

The company was awarded more construction grants than any other internet service provider for California public schools and libraries for 2016 and 2017. Earlier this year, it received a certificate of public convenience and necessity from the California Public Utilities Commission, enabling it to form strategic partnerships with federal agencies such the Department of Education.

“Right now we’re working with all different types of organizations – private and public – to spread the GeoLinks name,” Adams said.

GeoLinks’ rapid growth is linked to three components, Adams added: an exceptional primary product, strong customer relations and a knack for recruiting and retaining top talent. From land procurement to equipment installation, GeoLinks performs every step of the process behind setting up a broadband network in-house, affording finer control over timetables as well as its relationships with clients. The company is able to send workers to sites more quickly than companies that contract with third-party suppliers for equipment-related services.

“People are used to a certain kind of relationship with their internet or telecommunications provider,” Adams said. “Whatever the big guys were doing, we were going to do the exact opposite, starting with our speed of deployment.”

To catch and keep exceptional employees who are fully invested in the company’s progress, GeoLinks has outfitted its headquarters with Silicon Valley-style amenities, such as an in-house gym, basketball court and full-service kitchen. Workers also have access to a personal chef and a wellness expert, he added.

“There’s not a day that goes by where I’m not absolutely delighted with the workforce we have here at GeoLinks,” he said. “We are all about not only the client experience, but also the employee experience.”

But material benefits are only one part of the firm’s strategy for building a standout team. GeoLinks’ managers take a “hands off” approach to employee oversight, minimizing micromanagement so that workers have the intellectual freedom to come up with new ideas that can move the company forward, Adams explained.

“We went out of our way to make sure this is a company that creates a culture of respect, without the ego,” Adams said. “We want all of our employees to feel like they have just as much of a stake in the company as anybody else.”

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