The Syracuse, N.Y. native has worked since he was a youth — first, delivering newspapers each morning and evening and later, unloading produce from boxcars at the local farmers’ market.
“I had a hard time in school and mostly was drawn to work,” he said. “By the time I was a junior, I was leaving by noon and working 40 hours a week.”
Gifted in math, after college graduation, he took his accounting degree and landed a job at accounting giant Price Waterhouse (now PwC) in Rochester, N.Y.
Drawn to innovation, when competition in long distance telephone service was legalized in 1984 and a new industry emerged, Geiger became the controller at a Rochester New York-based telephone company.
“I immersed myself in the products and the regulatory environment and through that union of regulatory, financial expertise and burgeoning products, I left accounting behind and started developing products for that company,” said Geiger.
When his entrepreneurship could be contained no longer, Geiger founded FiberNet, a company that built fiber networks in metropolitan areas. He sold the company to Intermedia Communications in 1996 and moved to Tampa, Fla., to join the management team and head Digex, Intermedia’s web-hosting subsidiary.
In 1999, seeing a niche opportunity in the small business space, Geiger moved to Atlanta and founded Cbeyond.
“We started installing broadband pipe in small businesses for email, webhosting, and a package of goods and services that back then were not easy for small businesses to aggregate,” he said. “People wanted a single provider to bring them a package of productivity. We built a better mousetrap.”
In 2005, Cbeyond went public, opening at $12 a share. With each technological advance, the company built additional mousetraps, including the world’s first 100 percent voice-over Internet protocol network.
The year 2010 would become a banner one — the company opened its 14th branch office, a second customer care and technical support call center in Denver, Colo., and expanded into cloud services by purchasing cloud service providers MaximumASP, based in Louisville, Ky., and Aretta, based in Roswell, for a combined $40 million. The acquisitions were combined to create a new division, called Cbeyond Cloud Services.
Today, Cbeyond provides voice, data and enterprise applications hosted in its cloud data centers to more than 60,000 small and medium-sized businesses in 14 markets across the country. Geiger says the next wave of cloud activity is the marriage of network and cloud services.
“We are now operating in and around the coolest technology available,” he said.
Cbeyond’s headquarter campus is spread throughout three buildings off Interstate North Parkway and the company generates more than $450 million annually in revenue.
Geiger designed the 186,735 square-foot space with no doors between offices to foster teamwork. Employee business cards do not have titles and everyone works in a cubicle regardless of position.
“We wanted to do things differently technologically, but we really wanted to create a different culture,” he said.
Bill Adams of the Full Circle Group and has been Geiger’s leadership coach for 15 years. He calls the CEO “visionary.”
“Jim has the rare gift to identify and or create a market place need, define the product or service that will meet that need and then create a business that can fulfill on that need,” said Adams. “This includes being able to create a business from start-up to maturity that can capitalize on the opportunity. Very few entrepreneurs pull this off once in a career let alone do it multiple times.”