Serial entrepreneur grows GoZone WiFi in St. Pete
In the year since Todd Myers moved GoZone WiFi LLC from south Florida to downtown St. Petersburg, the software firm has grown at an explosive rate.
The staff has expanded from two people to 13 over the past year, and revenue is up 40 percent in the past six months, said Myers, GoZone founder and CEO, a serial entrepreneur who previously started eight technology firms. The company’s software platform is used in nine countries – and that number is increasing as well, he said.
GoZone is a software as a service company that monetizes public WiFi networks, such as those in malls, restaurants, bars, stadiums and brick and mortar businesses. When GoZone’s clients offer free WiFi to their guests, GoZone’s three software platforms give those clients data that helps them know more about those guests.
Myers cited the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, scheduled for Oct. 31-Nov. 4, as an example of how the three software platforms work.
Traffic counts. Organizers know how many guests with WiFi devices are present and their location.
Demographics. When a guest opts in and signs onto the WiFi, organizers learn their age, gender and email addresses, among other things, giving the boat show the opportunity to understand who their visitors are.
Ads. Guests who log in see advertisements, which gives boat show organizers the opportunity to get revenue for the free WiFi they offer.
For brick and mortar retailers, the data is especially important, Myers said.
“They’re at a disadvantage to online stores because they don’t have visibility to who their customers are,” he said. “Our software helps them have that visibility. We’re now leveling the playing field between brick and mortar and online stores.”
The market opportunity is wide open, Myers said.
“WiFi analytics alone is a $3.5 billion market today, and most of the research indicates it will be a $22 billion market by 2022. We’re one of four companies globally that does what we do at the level we do, and the only one in the United States.”
Myers’ previous companies also were software firms with data for service providers. He’s been working in the WiFi space since 2000. In 2001, he founded AirPath Wireless in Boston, the company that put the first WiFi service in an airport. Airpath was split into two companies: Opti-Fi networks, which later was acquired by Boingo, owned the WiFi networks at airports, while Airpath, the software company, then was funded by a venture capital firm and ultimately acquired by Aptilo, a software company from Sweden.
Myers started GoZone WiFi in Broward County in 2014, assembling a few team members from his past companies, and focusing on research and development based on feedback from early customers as he built what he said is the best in breed product.
Myers relocated GoZone to downtown St. Petersburg a year ago, citing the vibe of the community.
“The people are very friendly here. It was conducive to more of a tech environment as opposed to tourism and travel. There’s a good employee pool,” he said. “I drove down Central Avenue and said this is the place where we’re going to move the company.”
One of his recent hires is marketing director Elizabeth Weddle, who said she and her husband found a vibrant community when they moved to St. Petersburg from Michigan before she joined GoZone.
“We’re very innovative and a step ahead of what the market is looking for. We bring a lot of value to local businesses,” she said. “It’s fun to walk down the street to see our product used in coffee shops.”
Myers is working to give back to the community through a pilot project that would set up free WiFi throughout the Edge District.
“If you are a tourist or a local who comes to Central Avenue, you have to ask for a password, and every bar or restaurant is different. It’s not convenient to use,” Myers said. “We want to make it easy to use and benefit each stakeholder, each bar or restaurant, by providing information such as how old are the people visiting them, are they busier on a Tuesday in April versus one in May, and provide opportunities for sponsors to advertise.”
Myers has bootstrapped GoZone so far; one of his previous company was backed by venture capital, and he said he trying to avoid that. He does plan some future funding rounds based on the company’s growth, and he plans to continue hiring, primarily for sales and marketing.