Mission: Impactful
By Steve Hendershot


or most law students learning about contracts, patents, and corporate acquisitions, the subject matter is impersonal and future-focused—faraway stuff that they might someday apply on behalf of a client.

Not for Greg Wyler (LAW ’96).

When Wyler studied at Chicago-Kent College of Law, he did so while simultaneously running a company that made cooling systems for semiconductors. Wyler decided to stack law school on top of his entrepreneurial responsibilities “with the mission of making sure I was fully rounded,” and even though the dual focus stretched him thin, in hindsight the decision looks brilliant. That’s because Wyler not only sold his business to a public company two years later—leaning on his legal education along the way—but also because he has since founded and run several other companies focused on space, technology, and telecommunications, including his current venture, E-Space, which is preparing to launch one of the largest low-Earth satellite (LEO) constellations in the world.

The 1998 sale of Silent Systems—the company Wyler ran during law school—to Lisle, Illinois-based Molex, Inc. not only validated his course of study, but also allowed him to call his own shots in terms of career direction. He had enough money to retire then and there, and the idea had some appeal. But he decided he wanted to keep working, to keep building.

“I thought about mission and purpose and decided that I wanted to do things for the rest of my life that had a larger mission than just business,” Wyler says. “I do find an emotional drive from having an opportunity to help people improve their lives. I wanted to put the bulk of my energy on things that have a high positive impact.”

What he lacked, though, was a specific entrepreneurial idea that would fit the bill. He kept casting around for possibilities until someone he met at a friend’s wedding encouraged him to visit Rwanda. The African country was recovering from the devastation of genocide and civil war, and struggling to rebuild the infrastructure that would enable it to move forward.

“It was a place that wanted help and had a vision of building a better tomorrow,” Wyler says. “Generally, that might be a corny statement. But if you’re coming out of a genocide, it’s a great statement.”

Wyler began working to expand internet access in Rwanda, building a venture that installed more than 400 kilometers [nearly 250 miles] of fiber optic cable and launched the first 3G network in Africa.

“It just really was an extremely interesting and wonderful life experience,” Wyler says.

It also paved the way for Wyler’s subsequent satellite-tech ventures, which have focused on expanding internet access in connectivity-challenged areas around the world. In 2007 Wyler founded O3b Networks, a company that built the first satellite network in medium-Earth orbit (MEO) to provide broadband access to the “other three billion” people in developing countries. And in 2012 he founded OneWeb, a company focused on providing affordable, high-speed internet access using a first-of-its-kind LEO satellite constellation, aimed primarily in remote and underserved areas.

The work has earned Wyler global recognition: In 2017 the World Economic Forum named him a “technology pioneer,” in 2018 he was inducted into the French Legion of Honour for entrepreneurship in satellite networking to close the digital divide; and in 2019 he was inducted into the Space & Satellite Hall of Fame. He holds more than 35 patents related to satellite communications technology.

Now at E-Space, which launched in 2022 and has raised more than $90 million in investment capital, Wyler is adding a new dimension to his social-impact requirement: He’s aiming to clean up space.

The costs of building and launching spacecraft have fallen substantially in recent years, making E-Space’s plans for an enormous constellation of LEO satellites attractive to investors. But there’s a downside: Space is quickly getting crowded, and when two space objects collide—well, watch out.

“When you have a collision, the pieces don’t just lie by the side of the road,” Wyler explains. “They become projectiles traveling at 7,000 kilometers [almost 4,350 miles] per second, and will rip through anything they happen to hit.”

So E-Space is attempting to navigate a fine line. On one hand, its plans to launch vast numbers of satellites will contribute to the number of objects flying in orbit. Yet E-Space’s satellites also will serve a dual purpose: In addition to their telecommunications functions, they eventually seek to capture space debris.

Wyler is “an innovator, a proven risk-taker” who “doesn’t just talk about change; he makes change happen,” says Amy Mehlman, vice president of E-Space. “I appreciate that he seeks to use our new advances in technology as a means to advance humanity and create equal opportunities for all those that seek to be spacefaring nations.”

While E-Space is co-headquartered in Saratoga, California, and Toulouse, France, Wyler also maintains close ties to Rwanda, where his two eldest daughters, both teens (Wyler has five kids in all) are leaders of an effort to promote STEM education through a LEGO robotics league. The young Wylers have raised more than $500,000 in support of their venture, called STEM Inspires, and governments across Africa are asking to be next in line as the program expands.

The kids are in charge, but Wyler is happy to advise. Wyler assures his children that anything’s possible for a creative, passionate, and well-prepared entrepreneur. After all, he’s experienced it first-hand.

“When you’re on a team that’s trying to accomplish something that’s amazing and that’s never been done before, then you’re not at work, you’re on a mission,” Wyler says.●

More online: