Not much changed after Via West joined forces with Shaw Communications Inc. in July. Shaw Communications, a Canadian cable TV and Internet company, paid $1.2 billion for the Greenwood Village data-center builder.
The headquarters is still at the Denver Technology Center. Nancy Phillips is still its CEO. And she's as busy as ever, even taking calls during her holiday vacation visiting family in, coincidentally, Toronto.
"It is kind of funny that ViaWest was bought by a Canadian company," she mused. "It probably didn't hurt that I did know who Shaw was."
ViaWest is an independent, wholly owned subsidiary, she said.
"And independent is key," Phillips points out. "Shaw recognized that at ViaWest, keeping it focused on the service it provides and having a sleek approach in how we go to market was very important."
But one thing has changed: Via West is expanding to Canada. It's working on opening a new data center in Calgary, Alberta, where Shaw is headquartered.
Phillips left Toronto in 1990, after the company she worked for — one ViaWest co-founder Roy Dimoff started — was acquired by a Denver firm. But even when she moved on, she chose to stay in Denver.
"Toronto's a beautiful city, but Denver is a phenomenal place to start a family," she said. She calls her family — husband Jim Taylor, daughter Madison and Apsley, their black lab — "my anchor."
And she chose to join the start-up scene.
Back then, there was no Galvanize or Thrive or other trendy startup workspace for budding businesses. She and Dimoff went to a Starbucks in Cherry Creek.
"We figured out the first network diagram at Starbucks. I think we still have it on the back of a piece of paper in our offices," Phillips said. "It was the spirit of entrepreneurship. I felt there was a market gap and an opportunity to build in Denver."
While 1999 was a good year to start an Internet infrastructure company, the next few years were a doozy. Other hosting companies flailed away as dot-coms bombed. ViaWest, however, kept at it and became cash-flow-positive in 2002, she said.
Acquisitions helped grow the business and it got a cash infusion in 2010 when Oak Hill Capital Partners bought a majority stake.
Today, businesses with a digital presence — and who doesn't have one? — hire companies like Via West to store the data in protected buildings across the U.S.
ViaWest also offers customers third-party applications and services, such as Dizzion's cloud-computing for desktops. Dizzion's co-founder Steve Prather, a former ViaWest executive, continues to be a personal friend of Phillips.
"She's an amazingly capable, driven, intelligent person, and I'm fortunate to have learned a huge amount from her," Prather said. "It didn't matter what day of the week or what was going on, she was one of the first people to go in to work and last to leave."
He remembers the winter of 2006, when Denver got pummeled with snow so heavy that the airport was closed for two days. And there was Phillips with her snow boots and snowblower, helping clear snow from the roof of a data center near the Pepsi Center.
"She was willing to do whatever was required to move the ball forward," he said.
Phillips keeps startups close to her heart. She invests in them. She mentors them. She sits on boards — like the National Center for Women & Information Technology, the Colorado Technology Association and Startup Colorado — to keep her toe in the scene.
"It's a small community but a mighty community," Phillips said. "I've always very publicly stated that I certainly give a lot of credit to ViaWest's success because of the great system of public and private companies that have supported startups in general. I like to get involved in startups. It's paying it forward, right?"
Tamara Chuang: 303-954-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/Gadgetress