The theme of entrepreneurs building robust companies without outside capital continues in the story of OnSIP.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the beginning of your personal story. Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Mike Oeth: I was born in the MidWest, specifically in Speedway, Indiana. It’s the home of Indianapolis 500. I was very lucky in my early life to have three mentors who helped shape different parts of who I am. First, obviously, is my dad. He is a mechanical engineer and electrical engineer. He’s retired now but he had worked for General Motors. He was designing aircraft engines. He was very supportive when, in the seventh or eighth grade, I wanted to spend the money that I made that summer cutting grass to go and buy a computer. I bought a Ti-99/4A. It was one of the first personal computers out there.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking?
Mike Oeth: This would be around 1984. I actually got my first paid computer programming job that year for the local cable company. I was using green screen to put scores on the bottom of local football games. Eventually, I attended and graduated from Harvard University with an Economics degree.
My first job out of school was with a small software company called FactSet, which is based in Connecticut. There, I met my next two mentors. One was Chuck Snyder, one of the co-founders of FactSet. He’s an MIT graduate and a brilliant man who taught me patience and honesty. It was a great environment to start with right out of school.
I also met my co-founder who was sitting at a desk next to me. This was September 2, 1991. John Riordan had just graduated from MIT. I just graduated from Harvard. He and I were both starting at FactSet. Whether you were in the engineering, sales, or support team, they made you go through their tech support department. I was there for Customer Service and John was there for programming. John and I have been working on and off together ever since. John is just brilliant with technology.
What he taught me was that the merger of technology and business. There are so many technologies out there that go for pieces of technology just because it’s cool or new. John really takes a look at that, but tries to see the business opportunity. Eventually, John left FactSet to start a company called Interport Communications. He brought me in to handle sales there. Interport eventually grew to be the largest New York-based ISP and sold to RCN in 1999. People moved around after that. That’s when I met my other co-founder, Rob Wolpov.