Up Close with Flexential’s Chris Downie at CAPRE’s Carolinas Data Center Summit: Building a Business Out of Novel Opportunities

CHARLOTTE, NC – One of the hallmark sessions of CAPRE’s Carolinas Data Center Summit was an up-close Q&A with Christopher Downie, Chief Executive Officer and Board Member at Flexential, formerly Peak 10 + ViaWest. Moderated by CAPRE’s President and Founder Brian Klebash, the session kicked off with a broad question for Downie about his perspective as a long-time, and highly respected, industry leader, followed by some insight by Downie on the genesis of Flexential, and how the relatively new company has made out from behind the shadow of Peak10 and ViaWest to shine.

Chris Downie, CEO, Flexential

“Let’s talk about how Flexential became a company,” suggested Klebash. “You took two regional companies – Peak10 and ViaWest, and combined them into a national company with a new brand and a new name. How challenging was that, and what did you learn in that process? What are you still learning?”

I joined Peak10 in 2016. At that point ViaWest wasn’t really on the horizon. Peak10 had built a fairly robust platform of data centers throughout the Southeast. They had been here in Charlotte for probably sixteen or seventeen years,” began Downie, getting ready to dig in. “And so they built up a solid brand that was supported by a platform that not only had quality data center assets, but also network resources that tied everything together.”

“Then ViaWest came up as an opportunity, and so we acquired that towards Q3 of 2017. And the strategic thesis behind that was a no-brainer in terms of taking the capabilities West of the Mississippi River, and the capabilities East of the Mississippi River, and then marrying them together – really creating a new company in a lot of ways,” Downie continued. “Because this new company, Flexential, had to get in front of a whole host of national demand trends that neither Peak10 nor ViaWest really had the ability to entertain.”

According to Downie, there’s significant consumption of Flexential’s resources both East and West of the Mississippi River. “So our data center platform is now 40 data centers in 20 markets, ranging from Hillsboro Oregon where we have some very interesting overseas fiber cables coming in, all the way down to Ft. Lauderdale, and from Phoenix to Philadelphia,” he outlined. “So it’s a fairly robust and diverse geographic portfolio that really enables a whole host of geographic dispersity for our customers.”

Next, Downie provided some insight into some of the difficulties of merging “You asked how hard it was. Well, we’ve been at it for a year and a half. We deliberately set down the path of a very involved, but also very deliberate, integration process,” he shared.

New Event Square“I’d say it’s a rare opportunity when a company — and I’ve said this internally at Flexential, because our employees appreciate it — is afforded the time and the money, quite frankly, to get their back office right,” divulged Downie. “And both Peak10 and ViaWest had back offices, and they both had their strengths and weaknesses. When we put the two companies together, we said hey, this is a close to $500 million dollar revenue company, it’s in 40 markets, we have close to 1000 employees, we have 13 distributed cloud nodes, network backplane that ties it all together and ties it to carrier hotels, so we need to have a back-office that supports our customer scale in that regard.”

“So we’ve spent the last 18 months getting the back office in order, and really, making sure that our go-to market, our support infrastructure, and quite honestly, our employees, were as good as they could be in this new world of work. Because it wasn’t ViaWest anymore. It wasn’t Peak10. It was Flexential with a whole new market opportunity and capability set to support our growth,” concluded Downie, before handing back the microphone to Klebash to move onto the next question.

For more from Downie, check out previous CAPRE Insider Reports: