“The Adventure of a Lifetime”

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David Wang
Chief Technology Officer

At the helm of NetSapiens’ Technology, he helps sail the company through uncharted waters

If you’re seeking excitement in the world of business, you could start your own company like David Wang did. The NetSapiens CTO and co-founder began the “adventure of a lifetime” with co-founder and NetSapiens CEO Anand Buch almost 20 years ago. 

If you’re seeking excitement outside of your workplace, you could also follow David Wang’s lead as he swims, kayaks, hikes, skis, and bikes through the natural world — doing what some call “extreme stuff” that he considers “no big deal” — including winter camping in Yellowstone National Park and the Sierra Nevada Mountains as well as sailing from Hawaii to San Diego in a small vessel with only a crew of six.

David Wang at the helm of a sailboat on the ocean with the sun setting behind him.

When asked about more recent activities, in addition to the not-so-extreme pastimes of yoga, reading a book a month, collecting toy soldiers, playing classical guitar and piano, watching movies, and learning French, David says, “I kayaked and hiked in Patagonia in early 2020, right before everything shut down. I biked over 1300 miles in 2020, and over 500 miles so far this year.”

As for his NetSapiens journey that began in 2002, David describes it as “a very expensive, super-deluxe cruise, seeing and doing things that I have never done before.” And now that the company is starting a new leg in its voyage after merging with Crexendo, David is more excited than ever about what the future of the company has to offer, not only for himself, but for customers and the telecom industry.

“My concept of the world was concrete”

While attending high school at Hong Kong’s Queen’s College — a full-time Anglo-Chinese secondary school for boys founded by the British in the 19th century — David participated in the Duke of Edinburgh Award. According to Wikipedia, “The Award aims at encouraging and motivating young people…to undertake a variety of voluntary and challenging activities.”

As he pursued the Award’s Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels of achievement, David learned how to hike, sail, apply first aid, climb mountains, use search and rescue techniques, employ survival skills, and much more. David believes he was a bit spoiled before starting the program and agrees that all this early training and experience was part of the foundation for his self-confidence and willingness to take on challenges and greater risks in his academic, career, and real-world pursuits.

“I was born an engineer”

With family roots that go back to 19th Century America when Chinese immigrants worked on the transcontinental railroad, David ventured to the US for his higher education. He already had many relatives in California, specifically Oakland and Los Angeles, and was not required to pay out-of-state tuition, so David focused on attending one of the University of California (UC) campuses. 

While his two sisters attended UC Irvine, David wanted to live farther away from family and applied to UC San Diego. Following acceptance and enrollment at UCSD, David says he declared as a business major. This was to appease his father, but he didn’t take a single business class in his entire four years. Instead, he followed his interests and took math, communications, and engineering classes. 

“My family had no idea,” said David laughing. “So in my senior year, when the university does an audit for you to graduate, they looked at me and said, ‘Gee, you have nothing in business, but you do satisfy the electrical engineering program.’ I naturally like to build things. I always tell people, I was born an engineer.”

After graduating with a B.S. in Electrical Engineering (BSEE),  David earned a scholarship for graduate school at the University of Maryland. He explains how it came about, “One of my engineering professors told the class about a scholarship for graduate school at the University of Maryland and asked if anyone was interested in going there. I was the only one to raise a hand,” said David.

Graduate school on the East Coast

University of Maryland at College Park paid for David to visit the campus in the spring of his senior year, and because it was a “pretty place” and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom in nearby Washington, D.C., he decided to accept the Fairchild Scholarship Program’s scholarship. With a laugh, David recalls, “I don’t remember asking a lot of questions. I just thought it was a beautiful campus and said ‘Okay.’ I didn’t care too much. I was very simple-minded at that time.”

David Wang laughing

David enjoyed his time on the East Coast and got his MSEE (master’s degree in electrical engineering), spending two days in UM classrooms and three days working at Fairchild Industries, which at that time was intent on building satellites for the US government and a space program of its own. This was during the early days of the space shuttle and Reagan’s SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative). 

“So that’s how I got into satellite communications,” said David. He remembers one high-profile project, perhaps the very first commercial use of a Fairchild’s satellite system. It was used by USA Today publishers to beam the first daily newspaper edition with color images to cities throughout the country.

David credits Anthony Ephremides, his UM professor and advisor, with further development of his thinking. “The Greek professor” gave him exercises that focused on data, logic, and removing emotion from decisions. It’s a skill that he still uses today. 

“Focused only on the facts”

“I feel like that was philosophy training—the best philosophy training I could have. Training my mind to be objective. To get away from emotion when I make decisions, I think like a juror. Focused only on the facts. I find I can do a lot of things without prejudice.”

After graduating from the University of Maryland, David had job offers back in San Diego and really wanted to work for the men he considered “my gods” in the field of telecommunications. Both Andrew Viterbi and Irwin Jacobs were former UCSD professors and had co-founded Linkabit to build satellite encryption devices. These same two men would also later found Qualcomm. 

So David jumped at the opportunity to join Linkabit when he was recruited — despite having a competing offer to join SAIC in the same La Jolla (San Diego) office building that coincidentally has been NetSapiens headquarters for years now.

David spent several years at Linkabit splitting his time between the M/A-Com Govt System division working on classified projects and the Telecommunications division working on the very first terrestrial fixed wireless network, digital cellular (PCS and TDMA), and VSAT

“Walmart based their operation on our VSAT system to connect all their warehouses and stores. I spent quite a lot of time at Walmart HQ (Bentonville, Arkansas) and warehouses, installing and troubleshooting things,” said David.

While at Linkabit, David filed his first patent (see table below). It was for creating a “Linear predictive echo canceller integrated with RELP vocoder.”

After a few years, David joined PCSI, which was founded by the management team of MTel, including Martha Dennis, now chairwoman of the board of NetSapiens. David says, “I was employee number six.” According to David, PCSI was focused on using satellites for enterprise communications and the beginning of cellular communications.

David would spend over a decade at PCSI, which was acquired by Cirrus Logic during his tenure. This is when he got his second patent for inventing a “Method and apparatus for signal classification using I/Q quadrant histogram.

Then David moved on to help found Nuera Communications, which was a spin off from PCSI after the Cirrus Logic acquisition. At Nuera, David earned his third patent for coming up with a “Method for tandem detection and tandem tunneling.”

In the 1990s, David spent time on ETSI (European Telecom Standard Institute) Project TIPHON. “Specifically, I chaired the Working Group on SIP vs H.323 interpolation for over a year or so.” And he was a frequent contributor to memorandums from industry standards groups like the IETF (Internet Engineering Task Force) that, for example, discussed the SIP-H.323 interworking architecture and requirements. 

Ready for a change

After spending 20 years of working in telecommunications and being part of the workforce that ushered in the era of wireless and VoIP communications, David said he realized that they hadn’t really done much more than what Alexander Graham Bell had done a hundred years before. 

“We used to joke after big forums and conferences where all these big telecoms like AT&T and others would attend and ask, ‘What do we use this technology for?’ And we’d laugh and say, ‘Oh, I just call my mom.’”

David acknowledges that they may have created technology that enabled cheaper phone calls but little beyond the voice capability. “So I started to say, we need to think about applications. Application, application, application.”

In addition to wanting to make internet telephony more robust, David also wanted to get away from working with big enterprises and first tier phone carriers.

“We [Nuera Communications] tried to do packet cable telephony at that time and we spent three or four years demo-ing and testing. And eventually, we got a contract with AT&T’s cable division for three or four million dollars after spending $50 million. And then something happened at AT&T where they shut down the whole cable operation. And that was it. So I decided then that maybe I don’t want to work with the first tier carriers.”

“A phone system is the lifeblood of a small business”

When Nuera Communications initiated a second round of layoffs in the late 1990s, David volunteered to be let go. He felt it was time for a change and he really wanted to serve the SME (small and medium sized enterprise) market and work with second-tier carriers, because “a phone system is the lifeblood of a small business. When you’re a four or five person enterprise, you can’t afford a receptionist, so everyone one who answers the phone is a call agent.”

David said that from his experience he found that the second and third tier carriers were much more agile. “They don’t have a 10-year plan or a five-year plan. They have nothing. So they have to get things done in a year, because they don’t have that much capital. But also, they’re much more flexible to the end user.” 

It was at this point when he decided to start NetSapiens.

Cookie-cutting

David knows why NetSapiens has been able to succeed since it’s founding nearly two decades ago despite analyst predictions of an early demise. “There are 4,000 or 5,000 service providers [that are second and third tier carriers] in the US. There’s no single leader in our market, the market we’re going after. People said it’s hard to go after this fragmented market, because they cannot be cookie cut. But we believe that we can serve this fragmented market without cookie cutting, but eat the cookie too!”

David continues, “The big guys want their customers to be all the same and we want them to be different. Most analysts said we wouldn’t last six months. We’ve lasted almost 20 years. Analysts don’t understand our market.” 

“We decided early on that we want our system to be very customizable,” said David. “If you look at our process and our 200 customers, a lot of them are not competing with each other because they’re doing something different. We do the first 95% and they, with their intimate relationship with the end user, can customize and innovate with the last 5%.“

Biggest changes in the industry

When asked about how things have changed since the beginning of his career, David says, “In the early 1990s (at PCSI) we sold a voice channel (for a T1/E1, i.e. 24/32 channel box) for about $1500 per DS0. When I left Nuear in 2001, it was about $100 per DS0 for a 2K channel box. I now use one for a coffee table in my office! Now you can buy a four-port GW for less than $100 on Amazon.”

“At PCSI, we were also building some of the very first terrestrial digital radio network, and prototype of digital cellular over TDMA (IS-54). A ‘smart phone’ the size of a laptop today over CDPD (digital data over the analog cellular). We were building a small PBX for a dozen or so lines, maybe a few active calls, when we first started NetSapiens. Now, we have customers running over 1500 active calls, for 30K users per server, day in and out.”

“It’s been a lot of fun”

Looking back on the first couple of decades of NetSapiens, David says the “very expensive super-deluxe cruise” has been “a lot of fun.” 

“Now with the merger we reached a point where we need to reach out to a wider audience—the rest of the world. We’re still going to service small businesses. Our original goal has not changed.”

“I often think what my father would say, ‘You think you’re smart. You didn’t take business classes but you ended up running a business.’ I think maybe my parents used reverse psychology,” says David with a laugh.

A father himself, David and his wife Alice are empty-nesters. Their daughter is the Asia Pacific deputy editor for CNBC stationed in Singapore and their son is a mechanical engineer working for an electric car startup in Silicon Valley.

And what are David’s future plans? “Building more things. Building things to solve problems and better the world. I really enjoy building and creating things. I am an engineer.”

David Wang’s Patents

Patent #Date CompanyTitle
US 4,697,2611987-09-29M/A-Com Government Systems, Inc.Linear predictive echo canceller integrated with RELP vocoder
US 5,687,1631997-11-11Cirrus Logic, Inc.Method and apparatus for signal classification using I/Q quadrant histogram
US 6,498,7962002-12-24Nuera Communications, Inc.Method for tandem detection and tandem tunneling
US 10,264,0772019-04-16NetSapiens, IncSystem and methods for employing non-related communication architecture for signaling in another communication architecture (co-inventor Chris Aaker)
US 10,764,3612020-09-01NetSapiens, IncDistributed Server Architecture Session Count System and Method

Meet the Team spotlights are a series of profiles that offer insights into the backgrounds, experiences, and lives of NetSapiens’ founders and company leaders. We are always focused on the NetSapiens mission, which is to become the best B2B provider of unified communications, video conferencing and collaboration, and contact center solutions for service providers. 

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