By Dave Zilberman, Managing Director at Comcast Ventures
For all of the talk about disruptors inventing the latest in Silicon Valley innovation, this is a story about what happens when entrepreneurs find success by embracing traditional technology with a relentless pursuit. CTI Towers advanced the wireless communications industry by seeing the value that existing infrastructure could bring to new technologies.
To tell it, I have to go back a couple of decades. Think back to a time when landscapes were peppered by communications towers housing microwave dishes and TV antennas. As you fast forward to the present time, those microwave dishes and TV antennas have minimal utility as fiber and satellite supplanted these legacy technologies. While most wrote off that communications equipment along with the towers housing them, we saw an opportunity through CTI Towers to repurpose the towers for wireless communications.
When I met Tony Peduto in 2010 through a mutual acquaintance, CTI Towers was an idea that most said would never work. Yet Tony’s vast professional experience gave him an unmatched perspective. Having spent many years in cable TV and wireless tower industries, Tony had a vantage point that arguably very few, if any, could have had about the potential for these towers. With his depth of experience coupled with a determined mindset, Tony could block, tackle, and execute like nobody’s business.
The task of launching CTI Towers was immeasurable. Pouring through thousands of tower sites to assess market potential, revitalizing them and building trust and confidence with tenants about the viability of these towers one-by-one was daunting. Every time we had a steep, almost insurmountable hill in front of us (literally those towers are often on hills) he would say, “If this was easy, it would have been done already.” While the typical role of a venture capitalist is to invest in the best companies and provide directional guidance along the way, CTI Towers was very different. Tony and I were joined at the hip through every twist and turn debating and evaluating options and strategy. There was no prior model for what had to be done. We iterated and broke new ground repeatedly.
After the first five years, CTI Towers opportunistically sold approximately 300 towers to InSite Wireless for what was a great outcome. Not long after the ink on the deal was dry and we were in Palm Beach at a closing dinner, Tony suggested with a firm, deadpan delivery, “Let’s keep going.” While CTI’s tower assets were sold, we had the platform and management team to keep building. We embarked on an even more audacious journey to unlock thousands more towers that were not previously available to wireless network operators. And now, 10-years in, CTI Towers has been acquired in its entirety by Melody Investment Advisors.
There is no group more deserving than Tony and the CTI Towers team. I have learned from them how to be a stronger partner in operations, the importance of “old school” professionalism, and the virtues of relentless operational excellence.
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight our invaluable, stalwart independent board member from the very beginning of CTI Towers, Jimmy Eisenstein. Jimmy was a balanced, guiding light imparting wisdom and pragmatism throughout.
Thank You CTI Towers for a decade of tireless energy, great satisfaction and for the experience of climbing those hills with you. Good luck on your continued journey.
CTI Towers: The Pain and Progress Through a Relentlessness Pursuit was originally published in The Forecast on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.