Lynn Forester, 46 Founder and Co-Chairman FirstMark Communications
By Justin Fox

(FORTUNE Magazine) – In the mid-1990s, Lynn Forester persuaded the government to license her some unused radio spectrum in four major U.S. cities. The idea was to use high-frequency radio to transmit video-on-demand or broadband Internet applications, cutting out the need to lay cable. But before Forester was able to get anywhere, more aggressive rivals had encircled her, grabbing up most of the other city licenses worth having. "I had a strategy of going slowly and staying below the radar, which in retrospect was a mistake," she says. Not that it worked out all that badly. In 1997, Forester sold her licenses, which had cost her almost nothing, to the most aggressive of the license grabbers, a startup called Teligent, for $10 million cash and 5% of the company (which currently has a market cap of $1 billion).

Now Forester is trying again, with FirstMark Communications, a company she founded in 1998 to take her "wireless local loop" idea to Europe. This time she's definitely not staying below the radar. FirstMark, based in London, has already raised $1 billion--an unheard-of amount for a European tech or telecom startup--bought wireless licenses in six countries, built a fiber-optic network to link all the local loops, and filed with America's Securities and Exchange Commission for an IPO.

A Columbia-educated attorney, Forester was working at the prestigious New York City law firm of Simpson Thacher & Baartlett in the early 1980s when she got to know billionaire entrepreneur John Kluge of Metromedia. Kluge hired her to help manage Metromedia's forays into the cellular industry. When Kluge decided to get out of cellular in 1988, Forester bought a small paging and cellular company in Puerto Rico with backing from Motorola and Chase Manhattan. After tripling the company's size and expanding it into Latin America, she sold in 1995. That was the beginning; the end is not in sight.