Rich Lee is the CEO of Raleigh-based Pureport, which makes cloud connectivity fast, seamless and secure.
Before leading Pureport, Rich was most recently the Founder and CEO of Hosted Solutions (“Hosted”). Rich built Hosted from the scant remains of a company that was floundering in bankruptcy court in 2001, paying a mere $375,000 for the company’s assets. Backed with only $1.5 million in financing, Mr. Lee transformed Hosted Solutions through organic growth and timely acquisitions. Hosted was acquired by ABRY Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, in 2008 for $144 million, resulting in over an 85x return for Hosted investors.
Rich led ABRY-backed Hosted for two more years into its most recent sale in December 2010 to Windstream in an all-cash $310 million transaction, resulting in a 4x exit for investors. Rich led Hosted Solutions to a variety of industry accolades, including five consecutive Triangle Business Journal Fast 50 awards. He also won Triangle Business Leader’s “Impact Entrepreneur” award in 2008, and won the prestigious Ernst and Young “Entrepreneur of the Year for Technology” prize in 2009.
Prior to forming Hosted Solutions, in 1996 Rich founded MPInet, which quickly grew to become the largest privately held ISP in Florida. MPInet was acquired in 1999 by Duro Communications, and Rich was responsible for acquiring, integrating, and managing over 15 acquisitions for the company. Rich is on the Board of Directors for Data Center/Cloud Computing firms Tierpoint and Compass DataCenters.
Rich holds a B.S. degree in Building Sciences from Auburn University.
1. What is in your pockets?
I like to be as light as possible. So I typically just carry a small wallet and as little cash and credit cards as possible. My keys and my phone.
2. What exciting thing has happened recently for you or your organization?
At Pureport, we focus on multi-cloud enablement and connectivity. It’s basically infrastructure as a service with a blend of software as a service (SaaS) mixed in. We really think that a dev ops revolution is happening right in front of our eyes, and the traditional service provider—whether it be a data center, a telecom provider or other carrier—typically has not software-defined their networks. So we really think software-defining networks through the use of APIs, to be able to turn up services on demand like VPN connectivity and private-line connectivity, are key.
One of the exciting things we’ve launched is multi-cloud connectivity. As we move into this multi-cloud world and all these applications and workloads move to the cloud and to the multi-cloud, say Amazon and Google or Amazon and Microsoft, the need for connecting those over high-speed, low-latency connections becomes great. It is a security risk to do this all over the public internet. So service providers that can connect these cloud services together and make them all work seamlessly and on-demand are in a good position to succeed moving forward.
There’s a lot of exciting things that are happening at Pureport. The whole Pureport model is about enabling and being the glue or the plumbing for multi-cloud connectivity. And we’ve got some really exciting announcements coming up with a few of our ecosystem partners, but none that I can speak of right now.
3. What is your favorite coffee spot?
I work in North Hills, where our headquarters is. I typically gravitate around the coffee shops there. The Panera up on Six Forks, the Starbucks in North Hills, as well as Happy + Hale’s which has good coffee that’s very close to my office.
4. What keeps you up at night?
This is my third startup. Fortunately I’ve been successful with my prior two. I hope the same thing turns out at Pureport, but there’s a bunch of things that keep me up at night. Always as a startup you worry about the underlying technology, the competitive threats. Who your friend might be one day is your competitor the next day especially with Amazon, Microsoft and Google. So technology is something that you have to stay on your toes with.
And then as a startup, the next thing that keeps me up at night are the go-to-market models, positioning and strategic direction of the business, as well as how do we execute on top-line revenue. Because that is generally one of the things that I have found when I’ve looked at, or invested in, other small businesses is—some of the go-to-market and the revenue models are flawed and that can really cause problems in a startup. Nothing happens until a sale is made.
5. What is your favorite restaurant or happy hour?
Same as the coffee shops, I don’t gravitate towards one restaurant. I work at North Hills, so sometimes you’ll find me at The Capital Grille, sometimes over at Ruth’s Chris. There are a lot of great restaurant concepts in North Hills that have popped up. Vita Vite is a nice little wine place right next to my office. So those are areas where I typically gravitate to after work.
6. What is next for you or your organization?
We’re going to continue to build out high-speed links into companies like Salesforce, IBM and Oracle. Right now we’ve started with the big three: Amazon, Google and Microsoft. You’re going to see us expand the portfolio and be able to connect clients into applications that are not just your typical compute or storage platforms. But companies like Salesforce, Workday, Oracle, things like that, are probably some of the next products you’ll see us roll out.