Terabeam grabs fastest-growth spots

Parent company of Proxim and Ricochet has achieved fast success as a wireless turnaround specialist - landing on the NW200 list at No. 175.

Since 2003, tiny YDI Wireless had been growing mostly by acquiring and turning around financially troubled wireless companies. In July 2005, with the $24 million purchase of bankrupt Proxim, the company skyrocketed into the big league. The newly named Terabeam, with $59 million in '05 revenue, landed at No. 175 on the NW200 list. It also landed on the fastest-growing charts in all three major growth measures: No. 1 for five-year (136%), No. 2 for one-year (157%) and No. 1 for employee (136%) growth.

Interestingly, too, it grabbed Proxim out from under Moseley Associates after Moseley had announced an agreement to purchase the failed Wi-Fi equipment provider. "We came in and basically, at the auction [mandated by bankruptcy law], outbid Moseley," recounts Robert Fitzgerald, CEO of Terabeam.

The move was a classic for Fitzgerald, who had been a mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer before becoming CEO in 1999 of YDI Wireless' predecessor, Young Design. After joining Young, he immediately merged the company with Telaxis Communications, a prebubble Wall Street darling that had $1 billion market cap but was heavily in the red, to form YDI Wireless. By the summer of 2004, YDI had rebounded from Telaxis' weak financials and Fitzgerald had overseen the acquisition of three more wireless companies: KarlNet, Terabeam and Ricochet Networks (the latter reincarnated from the remnants of ISP Metricom, which had burned through more than $1 billion in cash before its demise, Fitzgerald says).

Today, the new Terabeam is a holding company of two units, Proxim and Ricochet, and Fitzgerald acts as CEO of all three. LAN gear, WAN equipment and ISP services each provide about one-third of Terabeam's revenue stream. The Proxim group offers wireless equipment - including Young's original line-of-sight microwave gear. Ricochet provides wireless Internet access to about 10,000 customers in Denver and San Diego, but equally important, gives Terabeam several key wireless mesh patents, Fitzgerald says. Wireless mesh and WiMAX are the company's targeted growth areas. Its newfound size also has allowed Terabeam a beefier budget for internal R&D. It will spend about $14 million, or 13% of current revenue, on developing WiMAX and mesh gear. And Fitzgerald remains on the prowl for the next troubled wireless company.

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Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.