Source: Chicago Tribune: Blue Sky Innovation
By: Meg Graham on November 17, 2015
Lisle-based ExteNet Systems has completed a $1.4 billion capital restructuring, allowing the tech unicorn to grow and keep up with the rapid growth of mobile data traffic.
ExteNet, a wireless infrastructure provider that creates multi-carrier shared networks to improve wireless coverage and capacity in low-signal areas, has done projects including building networks in Trump Tower and in the CTA tunnels.
The deal, originally announced in July, solidified ExteNet’s status as a “unicorn,” or the rare private company valued at more than $1 billion. It was led by Digital Bridge Holdings of Boca Raton, Fla., and Stonepeak Infrastructure Partners of New York. ExteNet CEO and President Ross Manire will continue to hold those positions, while Digital Bridge CEO Marc Ganzi will replace him as chairman of the board.
Manire said the deal will help the 13-year-old company continue to build its base business of indoor and outdoor networks.The company will also be “actively looking at opportunities to acquire other assets and businesses that fit our profile,” Manire said.
The deal lets ExteNet cash out previous investors including Palomar Ventures, Quantum Strategic Partners, SBA Communications, Columbia Capital, Centennial Ventures, Sevin Rosen Funds and CenterPoint Ventures, the company said.
“We don’t see this market slowing down at all, in fact, we think it’s going to pick up,” Manire said.He said as mobile data traffic continues to grow, so will “machine-to-machine communications” through the Internet of Things.
“That’s going to add even more capacity requirements on the mobile network, which is another driver for our business, which is why this [deal] is pretty timely and gives us a lot more capital to go out and build more networks.”
Other projects have included building networks in Chicago's Willis Tower and outdoor locations in New York City, including Central Park.
ExteNet, which won a 2015 Chicago Innovation Award, employs about 200, with more than 90 working out of the company's Lisle office and the rest in a San Ramon, Calif. office and spread out around the country. Manire said the company expects to hire 50 to 75 in the next year. He added he hopes the unicorn stamp is good PR for Chicago’s business scene.
“Our achievement of that status... I think was a testament that you absolutely can grow, develop and innovate a business in Chicago and Illinois,” he said. “It’s something that we have to certainly make people aware of to continue to foster entrepreneurial development in the city.”