Building a network

In the mid-1990s, Lise Shipley helped bring the Internet to the masses.

Lise Shipley, EMBA ’93, helped create the Internet and wi-fi networks and business models still in use today. Photo by Julie Denesha

If you’ve ever used Wi-Fi at a -Starbucks, Hilton or McDonald’s, then you have Lise Shipley, EMBA ’93, in part, to thank. Shipley started working for Southwestern Bell — now AT&T — in 1982 and spent 31 years with the -company, taking on many roles, -including bringing internet service and Wi-Fi to the masses.

About Lise Shipley

Lise Shipley, EMBA ’93

Business management

Outside Kansas City, Mo.

An angel investor who learns about companies whose products could change the world, like a storm sensor that can help detect bacteria in water during a flood

Fun fact
Shipley started out as a programmer at Southwestern Bell.


It all started in 1996, not long after Shipley finished an EMBA at WashU. She was tapped to run a startup company for Southwestern Bell that would offer the internet services we know today. At the time, the only option was phone line dial-up. Like at all startups, everyone wore lots of hats to get this business launched and running. Shipley was responsible for creating new internet network products, marketing, setting prices and billing, and all other aspects of creating a new service. Her startup had to be separate from Southwestern Bell because the internet was an unregulated business and couldn’t be mixed with the company’s regulated telecommunications work.

“It was really an all-hands-on-deck situation, just like any new company,” Shipley says. Her experience at WashU, where she was the first EMBA student to attend summer school at the London School of Economics, helped. “My EMBA was a good overview that helped me with the basic skills of organizational management, accounting, marketing, statistics.”

Shipley successfully launched the startup and connected millions of people and businesses to the internet over 10 years, before moving on to –
Wi-Fi. For that, she developed a business model that would provide managed Wi-Fi services for businesses so they could offer it to their customers. Her network grew to more than 32,000 locations.

“It was really an all-hands-on-deck situation, just like any new company.”

Lise Shipley, EMBA ’93, on building AT&T’s Internet business from the ground up.

Shipley left Southwestern Bell in 2013, but she still works in business as part of Next Wave Ventures, an angel investing group of 90 women who focus on breakthroughs that could improve society. “It’s a great way to stay engaged,” Shipley says.

Another way she stays engaged is through her scholarship, which she started in 2005 for undergraduates in Olin Business School. Shipley makes a point of mentoring her recipients and meeting their families. Her career, role as mentor and work as an angel investor have all been focused on impacting the future and helping others. 

“The internet network that we originally started in 1996 still exists today,” Shipley says. “It is amazing to have been part of the history, but also to have built something that will continue to be a force in the future.”

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