By Webb, Marion
Monday, July 18 2005
NextLevel Internet, Inc. founder Jerry Morris says his Internet service provider isn’t for everyone.
However, “If someone will lose money if their Internet connection is down, if they lose their life if their Internet connection is down, or if they will lose their reputation if their Internet connection is down, then NextLevel Internet is a very good choice for them,” said Morris, 35.
Founded in 1999, NextLevel serves such major local clients as the American Red Cross, Home Depot Online and Golden Hour Data Systems Inc.
Morris creates the analogy of providing “a thousand-lane highway,” so when a crisis hits like a fire, or a major event such as the Super Bowl takes place, causing millions of people to log on simultaneously, there’s no traffic jam.
NextLevel’s network rivals include such global giants as AT&T, SBC and MCI.
He says he can compete successfully against them by using the infrastructure of a major carrier, Level Three Communications, and improving upon it to try to serve local clients better.
Still, NextLevel is in an expansion mode.
With two offices, one in San Diego and another in Orange County, Morris hopes to expand into the markets of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Las Vegas, and another city, by 2010.
Name: Jerry Morris.
Title: General manager and founder.
Company: NextLevel Internet, Inc.
Address: 3914 Murphy Canyon Road, Suite A-120, San Diego, CA 92123.
Phone: (858) 836-0703.
Prior experience: Co-founder and general manager of US Net Solutions, Inc., an Internet service provider for businesses in San Diego from 1997 to 1999; worldwide business manager of Sony Electronics OEM Display Division 1995 to 1997 in San Diego; vice president of SRTF (Sandpoint Ranch Tree Farm), a family-run tree farm business, from 1992 to 1997.
Average hours worked weekly: 50.
Source of startup capital: $250,000 from personal savings, family and bank loans. 2005 estimated revenue: $2.6 million. 2004 revenue: $2 million.
Number of employees: Five full-time employees plus several outside contractors.
Web site: www.nextievelinternet.com.
Born: Jan. 24,1970, in West Covina; moved to San Diego four months later.
Education: M.B.A. from Thunderbird, the Garvin School of International Management in Phoenix; B.A. in business administration and Spanish from the University of San Diego.
City of residence: San Diego.
Family: Wife, Lisa; sons, Griffin, 5, and Camden, 3 1/2; and a baby girl due in August.
Hobbies: Beach volleyball, hiking, golf, travel. Spending time with family and good friends.
Reason for getting into the business: My mom and dad were entrepreneurs, so it has always been in my blood. I was working on an international business career within a large corporation, but found that I could not effect change quickly enough and became restless.
How I plan to grow the business: I will continue to work with a team of amazing people, resist any form of complacency by setting goals and achieving critical milestones.
Biggest plus of business ownership: Creating a game that I like to play. I like having the freedom to either personally change within the rules of the game or to change the rules to keep it fun.
Biggest drawback: A small business can be a jealous mistress. I thank my wife and family for their initial and ongoing support.
Biggest business strength: Except for my business partner, Elisa Henry, and her incredible enthusiasm, I believe our biggest business strength is our decision to place excellence in service ahead of the top or bottom lines. This vision has remained clear for us since the company’s inception in the late 1990s. VCs and Wall Street have stayed out of the decision-making processes for us entirely. Biggest business weakness: We are only willing to grow at a rate that does not disrupt our intrinsic value proposition of “service.”
Biggest risk: Not taking a calculated one.
Smartest business decision: Committing myself to being the best I can be.
Biggest business mistake: Introducing a VoIP (voice-over Internet protocol) product at a previous company eight years ago.
Toughest career decision: Leaving the perceived glamour of an international business career in exchange for a very local existence was a tough call for me at the crossroads.
Biggest ongoing challenge: I care deeply for and am loyal to the partners and employees who have built this company with me.
The most important part of my business: Our clients have always been the most important part of our business.
My business works best when: When goals are clearly set both individually and as a team.
Best way to stay competitive: Listen to your clients’ needs and respond to them. Be proactive. Hire talented people. Don’t be afraid to go right when the crowd is going left.
Goals yet to be achieved: I haven’t yet maximized the time I spend in the wonderful, very important moment of now.
My five-year business plan: NextLevel Internet Orange County was opened 16 months ago and is now very successful. I want to open four other markets over the next five years and want the de facto brand of NextLevel Internet to be the “best” Internet access provider in the Southwest.
I would sell my business only if: I was unable to grow with the company.
Guiding principles: Do the right thing.
Most admired entrepreneur: My mom and dad, who fed me with their unwavering entrepreneurial spirit.
Important lessons learned: Take risks early and get started now, preferably with the support of your friends and family. Get ready to make more decisions than you have ever made in your life. Become an expert in your field. Never stop learning.