SmartSky Networks

Industry: Telecom

Investment Date: October 2015

Headquarters: Charlotte, NC


Investment Overview:

SmartSky Networks (“SmartSky”) is building the first 4G air-to-ground (“ATG”) communications network in the U.S. to provide high speed Wi-Fi capability to the aviation industry.  SmartSky was founded by a group of experienced aviation and telecommunications executives who were frustrated with the existing in-flight connectivity (“IFC”) solutions in the market.  Using their joint expertise and industry knowledge, these executives are tailoring a solution to build a low-cost, high-capacity, next generation IFC service to compete with Gogo, the current sole ATG competitor in North America.  Once fully built, SmartSky’s innovative technology will enable the company to be a first mover in the 2.4 GHz spectrum and will pave the way for a faster, more cost-effective IFC solution.

Haynes Griffin, the Chairman and CEO of SmartSky, first approached Platform in December 2013 to solicit our interest in participating in an investment in the company. Haynes is a personal friend of Platform and a highly successful entrepreneur in the communications industry. Haynes was previously the Founder and CEO of Vanguard Cellular Systems, the largest independent non-wireline cellular carrier in the 1990s. Haynes led Vanguard from its inception through its initial public offering and ultimate sale to AT&T in 1999 for $1.5 billion. Given Platform’s relevant investments in Landmark Aviation and American Tower, Haynes felt we may be interested in participating in the investment.


Transaction Background:

From 2014 – 2015, Platform tracked the company as it achieved many milestones and executed on its development plan. Some of these initiatives included validating its proprietary network design, refining its technology by receiving its 11th patent, and publicly announcing the offering at the National Business Aviation Association annual convention. In 2015, SmartSky worked with one of their channel partners to complete radio frequency testing and to design the ground and aircraft antennas. Based on these accomplishments, Platform decided to participate in the financing.

SmartSky arranged a first-class group of investors to participate in the financing, including Meritage Funds (“Meritage”) and Tiger Infrastructure Partners (“Tiger”). Meritage is a Denver-based growth equity investment firm led by Jack Tankersley that focuses on technology-enabled services, and Tiger is a private equity firm focused on infrastructure assets with anchor investments from Tiger Management LLC (Julian Robertson) and members of the Ziff family.