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David Keegstra, BEng '87

Engineering Physics | Finishing off with the startup

David Keegstra’s resume includes stints at most of Canada’s biggest telecommunications companies.

Over the last three astonishing decades in the industry, the 1987 engineering physics grad held increasingly senior positions at Nortel, Telus, Huawei and Ericsson.

He’s had a front-row seat to the rapid changes in technology and their impact on almost every aspect of society.

Three years ago, he decided to cap his career by co-founding his own firm.

Recognizing the demand for good internet in underserved communities outside of the Toronto area, Keegstra and partners launched telMAX.

The company, which serves the Durham region with high-speed fibre-to-home internet services, recently raised $40 million in funding for its network.

With the 407 bringing growth to the area, the business upside is evident. But Keegstra, the firm’s chief technology officer, admits that his motivations for committing to the stresses of a start-up in the sunset of his career are complex.

Growing up in the small town of Lindsay, Ontario, he says he always wanted to live in the country. Instead, the reality of his career forced him to live within a sane commute of Toronto.

Even before the pandemic hit, he and his partners were arguing that good internet access could free people from that commute, reducing their environmental footprint and improving their quality of life.

“COVID is making some of our pitch for us,” he admits.

Bringing a solid fibre network to the region will also provide opportunities for business development.

“If you can get rid of the commute it helps with the environment, but it also helps people to work in their community again,” he says. “When people work in their community, there’s a better sense of community.”

Keegstra also admits a personal side to the motivation to launch telMAX.

“I kinda wanted to build something,” he says. “This is a way for me to design a network that I want to design, and I only have a small group of people I have to convince.”

For young people at the beginning of their career, his advice is to focus on developing skills.

“In your first few years after graduating, get to know the tech side of things really well because there’s no substitute for expertise in technology,” Keegstra says. “You can’t fake that.”

After that, he suggests seeking out jobs that teach the ability to talk technology to power.

“You need to be able to explain the network to a business person or a finance person, so that they can understand it and have same excitement you have.”

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