10 Years of Boingo: A Look Back At The Beginning


In the fall of 2000, an idea began to bloom in Sky Dayton’s mind.  A new technology was beginning to emerge – back then referred to as “802.11b” – that enabled people to access the Internet without wires.  As the founder of EarthLink, Sky quickly understood how this technology could transform the whole way in which we connected to the Internet.  If you weren’t attached to the web by a wire – you could get online virtually anywhere.   He imagined a world where people could connect on every type of device imaginable – laptops, cameras, cars and phones – in as many locations as possible.

“It’s like trying to imagine all the things we’d use with electricity before electricity had been invented,” he said in a Wired magazine cover story about Boingo in October 2002.  During a snowboarding trip in Mammoth, CA, Sky sketched out the basic idea of how Boingo would work: develop software that makes it dead simple to get a user online, and partner with burgeoning Wi-Fi network operators to create an aggregated network of Wi-Fi hotspots worldwide.

The company was incorporated in the spring of 2001 with the stealth name “Project Mammoth” and was eventually named “Boingo” — the result of a brainstorming exercise in which the team imagined that people would “boing” from hotspot to hotspot.

When Boingo opened its doors for business later that year, the company offered an unlimited, “all you can eat” Wi-Fi plan for – wait for it – $74.95 per month!  That got you access to a whopping 400 hotspots.

In the early days, future Boingo CEO Dave Hagan worked a booth at Seattle Tacoma airport, selling the plan to business travelers.  “You have to remember, Wi-Fi cards didn’t even come installed in laptops back then.  They were this separate card that you had to buy.  So not only did we have to chase down potential customers for our $75-a-month Wi-Fi plan, we had to sell them the Wi-Fi card, too.  We were definitely ahead of our time!”

Fast forward to 2011.  It’s 10 years later, and the changes have been immense.  Boingo now has hundreds of thousands of monthly subscribers and millions of customers who have used Boingo “as you go.”  Our unlimited plan now costs less than $10 a month (down from almost $80!).  We have more than 325,000 paid hotspots and our software connects you to millions of free and open Wi-Fi networks, too.  We’ve built software for laptops, mobile phones, tablets, cameras, even portable gaming devices.  It’s all Sky envisioned, and much, much more – culminating in our recent IPO.

Thank you for being a part of Boingo’s first ten years.  We couldn’t have done it without incredible customers like you.  To celebrate, we’re launching a 10th anniversary website where you can enter to win great prizes as thanks for all your support.  The anniversary site – to launch on Monday,  June 13th — will be an online community celebration that will last through the end of the year. Stay tuned for more information.

Thanks again! We look forward to sharing the next ten years with you!

About Dawn

Dawn is one of the rarest breeds of Southern Californians — a native. She has nearly 20 years of experience marketing technology, which means she's a nerd at heart (and we say that in the most loving way possible). When not at her day job as CMO of Boingo, Dawn spends time in a never-ending quest for the perfect margarita. (Rocks/salt, natch.)
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