Eco-Site, a Durham-based wireless tower and infrastructure company, is hitting it “gig,” raising an additional $90 million in capital in March, bringing its fundraising total to $190 million since the company’s inception in 2012. The company received a $30 million private-equity investment from Atlanta-based MSouth Equity Partners, plus a $60 million loan from a Chicago-based asset manager. Eco-Site built more towers in the U.S. last year than any other company, according to co-founder and CEO Dale Carey.
Eco-Site has grown from six to 54 full-time employees and 75 total staff and builds, owns and operates hundreds of tower sites in 35 states. Customers include major phone and internet providers, including T-Mobile, Verizon, Sprint and AT&T.
“Think of us as almost a commercial developer that builds strip malls or retail centers around the country,” Carey says. “We’re doing that from the ground up. … A carrier tells us that they want to put a tower in Topeka, Kansas. They give us a search ring for that particular area, and then we take it through to the point where the tower gets commissioned. It takes about 15 months.”
Once the tower is built, customers lease the infrastructure and pay Eco-Site a recurring fee to maintain the site.
Demand for wireless-telecommunication towers has grown sharply as the industry moves to implement 5G technology, which offers download speeds of up to 20 gigabits per second. The number of mobile-connected devices is likely to double to more than 1 billion by 2021. The industry’s revenue is projected to grow by nearly 18% annually through 2023, according to Mordor Intelligence, an India-based research company.
After growing sales by nearly 400% since 2014, Eco-Site won the WRAL TechWire award for Fastest Growing Startup in 2017.
Eco-Site was co-founded by Carey and wireless-industry veterans Bob Glosson and Rich Stern. The three previously worked together at Cary-based SpectraSite Communications until it was acquired by Boston-based American Tower for $3.1 billion in 2005. Eco-Site’s other employees come from a variety of wireless-industry and real-estate backgrounds.
Before starting Eco-Site, Carey was president and chief operating officer of Shared Access, a United Kingdom-based tower operator. He also worked for AT&T/Vanguard Cellular Systems in Greensboro.
“Our culture and our people set us apart,” Carey says. “We’ve got a very deep bench. … The senior management team alone has 150 years of combined experience.”
Eco-Site plans to raise a total of $275 million to $300 million to fulfill its business plan, Carey says. He expects the company can reach its overall goal during the next 36 months. “Our industry and what we do as a greenfield developer requires a lot of capital.