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There’s a lot to talk about on this week’s GeekWire radio show, including Microsoft’s $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s smartphone business, our hands-on impressions of Amazon’s new Kindle Paperwhite, and the inspiring entrepreneurial story of a 13-year-old from Spokane, Wash., who invented an Internet-enabled dog treat dispenser.

Vern Fotheringham

Our guest in the studio is Vern Fotheringham, the wireless and telecom industry veteran who is now the CEO of Kymeta Corp. The Redmond-based company, backed by investors including Bill Gates, is developing beam-steering antennas, controlled by software (not moving parts), that can maintain a persistent connection to satellites for broadband access around the world.

“I’m the luckiest guy in the world,” says Fotheringham of his role at the helm of Kymeta. “I have a job that allows me to leverage everything I’ve learned over the entire arc of my career.”

Describing the opportunities for Kymeta, he points to factors including the “languishing” state of the satellite communications industry, with costly phased-array antennas that use massive amounts of power.

“That kind of cumbersome solution … will now be replaced by a thin, flat antenna,” he says. “We drive the prototypes using USB ports. Less than maybe 3 or 4 watts of power for a large-scale aperture. So these are dramatic breakthroughs. I’ve never enjoyed a 99 percent advantage over the guy who was in first place previously.”

Here’s a picture of a Kymeta antenna, about the size of a laptop when folded.


Fotheringham also talks about what it’s like to be the CEO of a company with Bill Gates as an investor and member of the board.

It’s a fun and very geeky conversation, starting at the 12:00 mark in the audio player above. It’s also a preview of Fotheringham’s appearance as one of the speakers at the GeekWire Summit next week.

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Listen to the show above or via this MP3 file.

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