What’s Popping! PopUp WiFi Connects People with Reliable, Affordable, Portable Internet
VIVE LA is all about making connections! That’s why we were so excited to meet Nina McMahon, VIVE LA resident at Sienna on Sanborn and co-founder of PopUp WiFi, a high tech company that provides portable internet services. The company invigorates communities and events with affordable, solid connectivity for producers, vendors, non-profits and brands, no matter where they are. Since their inception in 2013, PopUp WiFi has supported over 10,000 event days in 7 countries and they’re still growing, with a focus on organizations and events that rely on cloud-based technology to tick. PopUp WiFi’s 2020 Vision is to develop carbon-neutral event WiFi, powered by solar and re-chargeable batteries, without generating piles of landfill and emissions.
Please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Andrew Davies, Linden Kurth and I founded our company in 2013 in Tasmania, a little island south of the Australian mainland. We were a project management company and constantly struggled to find reliable portable internet for events, so we created the first PopUp WiFi prototype. After a few years working with festivals, conferences and brand activations, we brought PopUp WiFi to LA. The event sector has been very enthusiastic and we now support events across North America. Our clients hire or lease equipment from us. They usually self-install, and our techs manage their networks for them remotely, in real-time.
We love the name PopUp WiFi. Tell us more about your company and what inspired you to choose this path.
Our company mission is to invigorate communities. Providing affordable, solid internet for producers, vendors, non-profits and brands, no matter where they are, is a way that we get closer to achieving this mission. I feel like this particular path chose us. Creating PopUp WiFi was the perfect intersection between solving a need we had, exploiting the unique skills in our team, and a readiness in the broader tech environment.
Your business has a lot of moving parts. What kind of background do you and your team have?
It sure has! We’re fortunate to have just the right mix to have a PopUp WiFi business. Andrew is a serial founder with computer science qualifications. He’s started and run successful businesses of all kinds, from IT services and hardware reselling, to coffee. Linden is a highly qualified and experienced network engineer with a renewable energies background and some serious project management muscle. I’ve had a few businesses myself and have a background in business and brand development, and a particular love for workforce development. My dark secret is that I am a qualified chef, a background that has been surprisingly useful in the events game. We are all into tinkering and love inventing.
It’s great to pursue your passion, but we know it’s not always easy. Tell us about your challenges and successes.
We started this company because we wanted to live a less ordinary life, and we do. At the moment, the big challenge and blessing is that we all travel a lot. Each of us has a child in Australia, and juggling parenting and the traveling WiFi life can put a real strain on our families and our health. Having the opportunity to work with my two best friends, work with amazing staff, connecting events across the world, and feeling genuinely proud of the service that we provide is a true blessing and feels like success.
What are you most proud of as a company and what sets you apart?
I’m proud that we’ve successfully democratized managed internet services. Powerful, custom networks used to be the sole territory of big businesses, who were ready to spend tens of thousands of dollars to make sure their internet never stopped. We’ve made it possible for small businesses, community organizations and startups to reap the benefits of managed internet so they can do more with less.
Let’s get out the crystal ball – what does the future hold and what are your next steps?
We’ve supported over 10,000 event days in 7 countries since starting and we intend to keep growing, with a focus on organizations and events that rely on cloud-based technology to tick. The next few years will see us launching a range of low-cost managed internet solutions for retail and hospitality enterprises so that their internet never goes down. We hope to connect 10,000 businesses by 2022. We love it when our clients come out ahead from a PopUp WiFi hire! My focus in 2020 is on creating resources that support startups and charities to secure sponsors for their event WiFi, to make sure that they make a profit from hiring our services every time.
What advice can you give to other folks who are chasing their dream?
It’s never too early to define your purpose. We wrote our 2020 Vision in 2013 and have stuck to it long enough to see the vision coming to life. Back then, with only the three of us and little income, it seemed premature for grownup things like publishing strategic plans. But it has kept us on track and kept us clear about who we are and what we set out to do. I would recommend writing a strategic plan to anyone, no matter how early in your business journey. Business can be so crazy, recording our vision and values early has helped us stay on track and given us a framework by which to measure our achievements.
As you know, Silver Lake is one of our VIVE LA neighborhoods? How did you decide to settle in Silver Lake and what do you love about the neighborhood?
Our Silver Lake story is about caffeine addiction and luck. Andrew and I showed up in LA last year, en route to Coachella, without a clue about where to go in the city. We were desperate for a good coffee, so Andrew messaged his roaster mate back in Australia, who suggested Intelligentsia. Silver Lake was the first result in Uber, so we found ourselves here. We liked the coffee and the neighborhood, so we decided to lease a company apartment at VIVE LA Sienna on Sanborn. We take turns staying here and we all thoroughly enjoy being at this address. I joke that we picked this place so we don’t have to cross any roads as we drag ourselves to the coffee shop. Silver Lake has been a great place to base ourselves when in we’re in LA and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes to be able to do the basics on foot.
Connect with PopUp WiFi
Contact Info: Nina McMahon
Business Address: 13034 San Fernando Rd. Sylmar, CA 91342
Photo Courtesy of PopUp WiFi
VIVE LA blog celebrates the stories of successful dreamchasers––local artists, makers, tech wizards, musicians, chefs, entrepreneurs, and other creative thinkers who live and work in our VIVE LA neighborhoods. These amazing people share their inspiring stories and give their personal perspective on what it takes to turn dreams into reality.