Riding the Waves
The Rise and Fall of GeoTek
Title: Riding the Waves
Author: Yaron Eitan with Uri Miron
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 184
Publisher: Inkwater Press
ISBN: 1-59299-120-3
Price: US $19.95
  Synopsis for Riding the Waves  

Riding the Waves recounts the gripping story of Geotek—one of the past decade's most innovative wireless ventures—from the perspective of its founder and CEO, Yaron Eitan. During its short lifespan, Geotek went from a small, obscure defense company to one of Wall Street's biggest stars, introducing a series of revolutionary wireless products in the process. Yet shortly after its proprietary national wireless network was launched, the company, which had by then raised close to $800M, found itself on the edge of bankruptcy. How did this happen?

In Riding the Waves, Mr. Eitan presents a story that anyone who has ever wanted to be an entrepreneur should read. He discusses both the achievements and mistakes that marked his tenure at Geotek, and extracts valuable lessons about what it takes to turn a fledgling company into a success.

  Excerpts for Riding the Waves  
Chapter 12
Launching Prematurely

In October, 1996, GeoNet was finally launched, and it was a disaster. The network came online, almost overnight, in half a dozen of the country’s biggest markets, and it just was not ready. Coverage was riddled with holes; subscriber units were unstable; the hastily developed dispatcher software was sluggish and prone to crashes; and GeoNet’s valiant but inexperienced technical support staff was overextended and incapable of providing subscribers with the kind of service they deserved. Because the launch had been delayed for so long, many of our customers were already familiar with the network’s end-user equipment and its capabilities, having been thoroughly exposed to demo systems by GeoNet’s salespeople. These were customers who had signed up in advance, early adopters who were eager to take advantage of our technology’s most advanced features. In nearly any industry, the initial customers are crucial, since their impressions have such an enormous influence on the larger public’s perception of the product. Our customers expected a state-of-the-art SMR network, and that expectation made their disappointment all the greater. It was, without a doubt, Geotek’s biggest crisis thus far.
There were two principal reasons for the failure of GeoNet’s launch: firstly, we had not deployed enough base stations; and secondly, the subscriber units and back-end customer software had not been sufficiently debugged. They were essentially “alpha” or “beta” releases, and their behavior in uncontrolled situations was unpredictable.
Unfortunately, there was no way for Geotek to un-ring the bell and take the launch back. By the time we realized the extent of the problems, several weeks after GeoNet began operations, we already had a about two thousands active subscribers all over the country. Their wide distribution made the situation especially difficult to manage. There was no way to isolate the crisis - we had to deal with it everywhere we were.
About a month after GeoNet’s launch, we announced the freezing of all new sales until the network’s technical problems were resolved. It was a drastic move, but one which we had no choice but to make. To entice customers to stay, we credited them for all their costs through April, 1997, giving them free air time until the network was finally re-launched. In the meantime, Geotek drastically increased orders for base stations and intensified its debugging efforts, especially for the end-user terminals and dispatcher stations. There was no magic bullet we could turn to in order to resolve GeoNet’s predicament; the problems simply had to be solved. I came to visualize the network as a piece of Swiss cheese, full of holes; countless small issues, combined with a few larger ones, made the overall structure highly unstable. The only way to repair the system was to plug in the holes, one by one. We had tried to make shortcuts, and now we were paying the price.
  Author Biography  
Yaron I. Eitan, a long-time entrepreneur, has spent most of his professional career running or guiding young technology companies. From 1989-1998, he served as the CEO and founder of Geotek Communications Inc. In the late 1990s, he founded Selway Partners LLC, a technology-sector holding company. Currently, he is a partner at SCP Private Equity Partners, a $1B private equity firm, and the chairman of the board of several technology companies. He received his MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, prior to which he served as an officer in the Israeli Defense Force. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and three children.
Uri Miron was born in Israel and lives in New York City. He was a segment/interview writer for the Leonard Lopate Show on National Public Radio affiliate WNYC and has worked as a freelance writer in a variety of genres. He was educated at Columbia University, where he received a Bachelors degree in Computer Science and an MFA in Film with a concentration in Screenwriting.
  How To Order Riding the Waves  
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Inkwater Books
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Inkwater Press
6750 SW Franklin Street, Suite A
Portland, OR 97223-2542
P: 503.968.6777
F: 503.968.6779
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