My conversations with vendors, suppliers, and partners continues with a telephone call (a traditional POTS telephone, in my case) with Bruce Chatterley, CEO of Speakeasy. VoIP, either on its own or as a key component of unified communications, is an important technology for many SMBs, so I thought it would be interesting to talk with a company that specializes in providing service for smaller companies. I've been aware of Speakeasy for some time, but I still learned new things about the company -- some useful, and some merely quite interesting.
Chatterley began by telling me that Speakeasy was originally founded in Seattle as one of the first Internet Cafes in the city. Customers began to come in asking more for technical consulting than beer and lattes, so the company spun off the café and started a broadband ISP. Based on their experience with cafe users, the new ISP's initial focus was on power and expert users. One of the company's initial differentiators was a series of open policies – they didn’t mind customers running servers or sharing connections over WiFi, for example.
Bruce came into Speakeasy with three big-picture goals: he wanted the company to grow; to stay on a sustainable path (sustainable from a long-term business perspective); and to be profitable. He saw the residential broadband market going to commodity status starting in 04, and thought that Speakeasy couldn’t compete in the long term with the telcos and cable companies. The company decided to focus their efforts on the SMB market, with SMB defined as businesses with fewer than 100 employees. That has remained the company's focus, though the customer base has settled toward the small end of the market, with most of their customers having fewer than 25 employees.