Lee Cook, CEO of Phonoscope
If you were to connect the dots between atomic bombs, Bing Crosby, science fiction, video recording and transmission, and the largest private fiber optic network in the country, what would you come up with? Lee Cook would be the correct answer.
Mr. Cook is a pioneer of innovation and a role model for entrepreneurs. In 1953, he developed the first two-way audio/visual communications system in Houston and began providing MATV (Master Antenna Television) for businesses and hotels in downtown Houston. In 1959, he launched the world’s first “talk and see” two-way audio/video teaching network for the Galveston Independent District. This is most impressive when realized that this was only thirty years after the TV was made commercially available in the United States. At that time, many households had yet to purchase their first television set.
A man’s man in the entrepreneurial world, Mr. Cook was convinced by Jesse Jones to leave Los Alamos, NM and the Manhattan Project and to come to Houston. Cook had pioneered two way video which was the basis for founding a new venture. While video conferencing is a commonplace technology today, it would not be so without the pioneering vision of Cook. In the post WW-II era, this was beyond the realm of science fiction, but Cook turned it into reality. Combining his two way video technology with early video recording capability developed through a partnership with Bing Crosby, and a vision to connect area schools; the new venture was formed.
Today, he is the CEO and founder of Phonoscope, the nation’s largest privately-owned fiber optic Metropolitan Area Network (MAN) and cable provider for the Houston region. Phonoscope, under Cook’s direction, has been an important supporter of HTC since we moved into the midtown facilities. From the onset, he has been our provider of VoIP services. Phonoscope donated and installed the fiber optics to the building and provided and installed services throughout the buildings. In the face of gargantuan competition from the likes of AT&T, Verizon, Time Warner, and others, Cook has operated, sans fanfare, and created an advanced network with capabilities that surpass the corporate giants and attract a who’s who list of top shelf corporate customers.
During a recent and rare opportunity to interview Mr. Cook, it was easy to understand how he built this massive network and the technology behind it. He is constantly pursuing new innovation and never satisfied with just “maintaining”. This is the DNA that defines a real entrepreneur and is a lesson for those who set out to bring new businesses and technology to bear. A true entrepreneur is willing to ‘step out”, take chances, and pursue constant change. Lee Cook exemplifies this and is a true model of success for new upstarts to learn from.