A simple device that analyzes wireless networks for interference has become big business for an inventor whose business card identifies him as “chief geek.”
Ryan W. Woodings (BS ’00) calls his product Wi-Spy and says the idea for the mechanism came to him at work when he was using a 30-pound, $30,000 spectrum analyzer to check Wi-Fi systems. “I thought there could be an easier, less expensive way,” he explains.
About the size of a portable USB drive, Wi-Spy contains a small radio that listens to 11 Wi-Fi channels on the 2.4 gigahertz band. Through the software, users can see how busy or quiet channels are. “This gives an IT person the ability to set up a Wi-Fi network on a channel with little interference or to quickly discover the source of Wi-Fi network problems,” Woodings says.
He spent nights and weekends working on a solution. “I approached my wife and said, ‘I need $12,000 of our savings for an idea.’ Fortunately, she gave me the OK,” Woodings says. He wrote the software, designed a Web site, and named the company MetaGeek.
“I was asked by a friend if I had a business plan. I replied, ‘What’s a business plan?’” After some deliberation, Woodings set the price at $99 and made a goal to sell 14 units a month. He had no idea what would happen next.
Unbeknownst to Woodings, a friend who heard about the device posted a description of it on engadget.com. “That day we had 65 orders,” Woodings says. “We didn’t even have product yet.” The initial supply of 240—slated to last a year—sold in three weeks.
The 2-year-old company has gone from breaking even to grossing half a million dollars in revenue. “I had to quit my day job, hire a software engineer, and even coax my mother into doing the bookkeeping,” says Woodings.