Editor’s note: This blog was originally published by the Loon team on January 15, 2019. In 2021, Loon's journey came to an end. The Loon team have shared their flight data and technical, operational and scientific insights in The Loon Collection to support the next generation of stratospheric innovation. Thank you to everyone who supported the Loon team along the way.
Loon began as a simple idea to bring the internet to those who don’t have it. Of course that’s not a simple problem, which is how we ended up with stratospheric internet balloons.
In the early days of Loon, the focus was on the technology. After years of trying to prove that Loon would not work, we were pleased to conclude that indeed it could work. The next question was how to get this technology to people who actually need it.
We quickly realized that as a business with the mission of connecting people everywhere, our path to success is to partner with those who have significant experience connecting people every day. Mobile network operators (MNOs) have decades of experience delivering connectivity to billions of users around the world. With Loon’s technology, we see a valuable opportunity to help MNOs reach more people in areas that have been difficult or impossible to serve. Loon is as an infrastructure solution that will allow MNOs to expand their networks and attract new customers.
As Loon transitions to a commercial business and looks to partner with MNOs worldwide, we’re adding some serious expertise to our ranks with a new Advisory Board that brings together top wireless innovators with decades of experience in the industry.
Founding members include:
Craig McCaw is an experienced telecommunications entrepreneur who started and built many successful companies over the past 30 years in the cable, cellular telephone, wireless broadband, and satellite industries. Mr. McCaw served as Chairman and CEO of McCaw Cellular Communications, which he built into the nation’s leading provider of cellular services, until the company was sold to AT&T Corporation in 1994. Following the sale of McCaw Cellular, Mr. McCaw restructured Nextel Communications and co-founded Nextel Partners and other communication companies in the US and abroad. In 2003, Mr. McCaw co-founded and served as Chairman and CEO of Clearwire Corporation, a wireless broadband company. Currently, Mr. McCaw is Chairman and CEO of Eagle River Inc., a private investment firm focused on strategic investments in the communications industry.
According to Craig, “I’ve spent a lifetime working on technology to break down barriers so people don’t have to be confined to large metropolitan areas to communicate with one another and the broader world. In my view, leveling the playing field is both a moral and practical imperative for our future. I’m incredibly impressed by Loon’s progress on this front, and I look forward to working with Alastair and the team to help realize the mission of connecting people in places that for too long have been left behind.”
Ian Small brings a combination of Silicon Valley entrepreneurial and executive MNO experience to Loon’s advisory board. Mr. Small is currently CEO of Evernote, a Silicon Valley mobile and desktop personal productivity application provider, and is a member of the board of directors of Lumentum, a leading manufacturer of photonics and laser products used in the telecommunications, data center, mobile device and manufacturing sectors. Previously, Mr. Small was global Chief Data Officer and a member of the executive committee of Telefónica S.A., one of the world’s largest telcos, following its acquisition of TokBox, a Silicon Valley startup where he was the CEO. At Telefónica, Mr. Small was responsible for new product innovation and R&D, including Telefónica’s long-term innovation unit Telefónica Alpha.
According to Ian, “I first encountered Loon while working at Telefónica, where I was responsible for evaluating how a service like Loon could fit into an existing MNO like Telefónica across its many geographies and the variety of economies it encompasses. Both at Telefónica and in the time since, I have been incredibly impressed not just with the technology itself, but with the Loon team’s ability to continuously confront and solve a massive variety of technical and business problems in their ongoing quest to deliver a compelling commercial business model for connecting people anywhere. I’m delighted to bring my combination of Silicon Valley and global telco experience to help the team connect the world with Loon.”
Marni Walden has more than 20 years of experience in the wireless industry, working in senior leadership positions for a number of high profile companies. Most recently, Ms. Walden was a top executive at Verizon, serving as Executive Vice President and President of Global Media and New Business. In that role, she led products and services, content negotiations and partnerships, as well as establishing new businesses for future revenue generation for all of Verizon Communications. Ms. Walden also led the corporate strategy team, which included acquisitions and investments through Verizon Ventures.
According to Marni, “Loon holds a lot of promise for mobile network operators, providing a flexible and cost-effective solution to help reach new customers and better serve existing ones. After decades in the wireless industry, I am excited to help the Loon team as they transition to a commercial enterprise and work with mobile network operators to connect users worldwide.”
With their collective expertise and wisdom, Craig, Ian, and Marni will help guide and advise us as we work to partner with MNOs around the world and advance our mission of connecting people everywhere. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome them to the Loon family.