Sky’s the Limit – Cascadelink Connects SLU’s High-Rises

Ten years ago, Chris Flugstad and his partner Dave Wills were fresh out of college and had a bright idea – to provide swift Wi-Fi service to local marinas that languished with no Internet service or had molasses-speed dial-up. That was enough to jumpstart Cascadelink, the right idea at the right time for a niche market.

Fast forward a few years, and the fledgling company had transitioned to servicing small businesses, then residences. Ultimately, they hit upon another niche market: Seattle’s exploding high-rise communities. They launched service at Vulcan’s VEER Lofts, where Flugstad lives. “Our model took off at VEER and worked perfectly from the get-go,” Flugstad said. “Then Vulcan said, ‘We need this for our other properties.’ It took off from there.”

Cascadelink began stringing together SLU apartment and condo customers like a pop-bead necklace. Today, Cascadelink hurls data lickety-split from 15 buildings in Seattle and Bellevue. The company has been doubling its customer base and revenue every year.

How it Works

The group has a branded fiberlink network – a microwave wireless technology that gets upgraded every six months or so. “It gives us infinite bandwidth and speed. No data cap, no daisy chains, no bottleneck,” said Flugstad. And if there’s ever a problem, they can pinpoint the glitch and fix it, pronto.

Flugstad said their pared-down approach has a lot to do with their success. “With Cascadelink, you don’t have to bundle in phone and cable TV if you just want Internet,” he said. “We’re faster and more efficient at a better price.”

Sound like a triple threat? But wait, there’s more!

“We also do ‘instant on’,” Flugstad said. “When you sign up with Cascadelink, you don’t have to wait around for a technician to come and plug a cable into a modem. Because there is no modem – just a router. We email instructions to your smart phone and you’re in business.”

David and Goliath

Comcast. Centurylink. If you put Cascadelink up against one of those gazillion-dollar behemoths with copper in the ground, it’d be tough to compete. But they have modest overhead, a lean workforce, and a business model that operates in “free space” with microwave and fiber. As a small and nimble entity proposing an altogether new concept, it works well.

Hotspots in the ‘Hood

Small companies operate on a slim margin. But in areas where people gather in South Lake Union – like Lake Union Park and the plaza near Whole Foods – Cascadelink provides free hot spots…wireless Internet access, gratis.

“The city is shutting down a number of its hot spots in the city because of budget cuts, so we’re happy to offer this to the community,” Flugstad said. “There’s always stuff happening in the area, so it’s nice to give Wi-Fi to the vendors and participants who attend events like the Block Party. You know, you can’t just truck Internet in for the weekend.”

Cascadelink gets marketing exposure from the venture, and they’re getting noticed. New business is popping. They’re now in talks with local organizations about taking over Wi-Fi management currently conducted in-house, expensively.

Flugstad said, “This is a whole new opportunity – servicing organizations that overspend in doing Wi-Fi themselves. We can usually do it for a fraction of the cost.”

Another niche?

“2013 will be our most insane year of growth,” said Flugstad. “To bring this service to our neighborhood and beyond…it’s a great joy.”

Guess you could say that Wi-Fi and entrepreneurialism are in the air in South Lake Union.

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