Friday, May 29, 2015

Fiberlink weighs spring IPO

Will third try make founder Paul Russell rich again?

Fiberlink weighs spring IPO

Paul Russell is one of that generation of Philadelphia serial entrepreneurs that jumped from business to business, and eventually into tech.

Russell owned, in succession, his wife's family's Furniture Exposition building in the 100 block of Chestnut St., which he turned into one of the first Center City riverfront apartment buildings, then condos, in the 1970s; later the Asch family's former Active Amusement Machine Co.; and, starting in 1991, his own creation, Fiberlink, which started by aggregating "dark fiber" long-distance service for AT&T competitor WilTel, and has evolved into a laptop-computer connector, dial-up Internet developer, and most recently an iPhone and smart-device secure cloud service provider (selling MaaS360, which stands for Mobility-as-a-Service, everywhere) to Vodafone, LinkedIn, Sunoco, Indepenence Blue Cross and 1,000 other clients.

Along the way Fiberlink raised tens of millions, from Edison Ventures in Princeton, Goldman Sachs, GE, and Technology Crossover Ventures (TCV), among other venture capital giants. "We almost went public in 2000, and then again in 2003," but each time its main business shifted too fast to clinch a sale, Russell told me.

Now, with 300 workers -- "we hired 100 people last year, and expect to hire 100 this year," said co-founder Jim Sheward -- the company sees another chance at mass capitalization.

More coverage
Fiberlink to add 75 jobs at new Philly office
Fiberlink adding Center City office

"Maybe next spring," Russell told me, when I asked about going public, as Sheward and Mayor Nutter cut the ribbon at the Montgomery County-based company's new Philadelphia office on the 20th floor atop at 1601 Benjamin Franklin Parkway. (Center City, said Sheward, is where young engineers and marketing people want to work. Not the distant suburbs.) "We're on a great track now. We'll keep our heads down and keep pushing."

About this blog

PhillyDeals posts drafts, transcripts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area business, which he's been writing since 1989.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn and taught writing at St. Joseph's. He has written thousands of columns and articles for the Inquirer, Bloomberg and other media, wrote the book Comcasted, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at,, 215.854.5194 or 302.652.2004.

Reach Joseph N. at or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano