In this #NomadFuturist podcast, Eli Scher talks about how his background as an investment banker propelled him into the world of IT.

After an initial stint working in structured finance, Scher decided that he wanted to get closer to operations. “When you get out from behind a spreadsheet you see what’s happening in the real world.”

The real world included five years in Shanghai, China developing media and networking companies. “Finance gave me a broad skill set, a set of tools to pull stuff together and approach things from a high level.”

Scher then became attracted to the data center industry:

“It’s so opaque. There’s such a lack of understanding of what exactly goes into provisioning infrastructure…Others would be scared away so that was a good place for me to focus.”

Upon returning to the U.S. Scher took over a data center in the west Chicago suburbs. He was forced to get “technical” and gained expertise by jumping in. “I don’t operate with a lot of fear, but I try to operate with humility and recognize my limitations.”

Scher’s experience with data centers and networking led to his involvement with a non-profit — Open-IX where he is currently Chairman. The organization fosters the development of data center and IXP technical and operating standards in a framework that works for everyone.

“I realized that not only is it good for real estate developers to distribute exchange points, it’s good for networks to distribute exchange points and it’s also good for consumers.”

Despite economic challenges created by COVID, Scher is optimistic. He believes that bandwidth bottlenecks have been exposed. People will need more bandwidth to be able to work and consume rich data.

He sees financial opportunities in developing private networks:

It’s not a bad time to be in this business…building a 5G network for an enterprise or a community that becomes the 5G network for the hardware that lives in that location…then all the other networks end up having to pay you to provide services for their consumers.”

Eli Scher has invested in and built technology, media and telecommunications businesses in China and the United States. He was most recently Founder and CEO of New Continuum Data Centers and United Internet Exchange in the greater Chicago area. He sold the businesses to SBA Communications in July 2019 and continues to consult for them. He is currently the Chairman of Open-IX. Scher resides in New York City with his wife and twin 8-year-old daughters.  

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