NEW YORK — When Patrick Lo co-founded computing networking provider Netgear Inc. in 1996, he envisioned an online utopia in which “the internet was going to drive everything.”
Who would have guessed that the distant future Mr. Lo had imagined would be here in a virtual flash?
“When the pandemic happened, that got compressed into a 1-1/2 year time frame,” said Mr. Lo, 64, chief executive of the San Jose, California-based supplier of networking hardware for consumers, businesses and service providers.
“We’ve got Disney and Fox saying: ‘We’ve got to do these new releases online.’ We have Peloton and people doing exercise and personal coaching at home,” Lo said. “That’s a huge change.”
Mr. Lo talked to Reuters about pivoting to a new normal in the past year. Edited excerpts are below.
Q. How has this pandemic changed your business?
A. There are two really clear trends we started seeing in the pandemic after about three months into it.
The first is on the consumer side: there is a segment of the market which demands the best Wi-Fi internet experience bar none, no matter what the cost is. To them the activities are now 100% conducted online–work, homeschooling their kids, exercising, entertainment, Zoom parties, Zoom dinners.
In many of these families, there are three to four family members, and they can’t interfere with each other while they work, so they separate themselves. That means there has got to be enough bandwidth.
Work, school, and other activities are conducted at corners of their houses far away from each other. So Wi-Fi must cover all ends of the home. That’s not cheap–it’s $1,000 to $1,500 a system. We’ve seen tremendous pickup in this particular segment.
The second trend is protecting online activity from cyber attacks. They want to make sure they keep an eye on their kids.
We’re seeing these same trends in Europe and Asia big time.
Q. What has your focus been, as a result, when it comes to new products?
A. The products that we have with the best coverage and speed for everybody have been around for more than a year, but they didn’t pick up strongly until the pandemic.
What we’re seeing right now is that the service providers are responding to it. Here (in the Bay Area), Comcast is offering two-gigabit internet–and then you have Samsung, which just brought out a phone supporting two-gigabit internet. Because of this, we’re rolling out Wi-Fi that can support two-gigabit internet.
We’re getting feedback from parents on the software side. They want a feature in smart parental control software that builds in awards, like, “If you’re a good kid, I’ll give you two more hours of Facebook.”
This won an Innovation Award at CES (the annual technology trade show in December) and rolls out in the middle of March.
Q. What’s the best job advice you’ve received?
A. When I was at Hewlett-Packard, David Packard was still there. He said, “Patrick, you could be smart, you could be hardworking and that’s good, that’s fundamental, but to progress in any organization you need two forces. You need pull and push.”
You’ve got to push as hard as you can. You’ve got to work hard and be willing to volunteer to do more work. But the pull is equally important–you’ve got to have a mentor several levels above you who will pull you along, then you will be successful.
Q. What are your new work rituals?
A. I go biking at least four days a week, all by myself, and on my neighborhood side streets that have very little traffic. It gives me quiet downtime for an hour on weekdays, which I didn’t use to have.
I do this during the workday. Every time, I come up with new ideas, so it’s really good. Also, it’s making me exercise, which enables me to tell myself, “OK, now you can eat more.” — Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan/Reuters