ISPCON: Who Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

Dane Jasper, CEO,
Jonathan Snyder, president, CEO and director, KeyOn Communications
Dan Hoffman, president and CEO, M5 Networks
Rich Bader, president and CEO, EasyStreet Online Services

Moderator: Paul Stapleton, managing director, DH Capital LLC.

What is your go-to-market plan? How are you reaching your customer base?

Jasper: We deliver products at a commodity price-point that appeal to "prosumer" customers who are recommenders. We also take very good care of our customers. Good customer service surprises and impresses end-users and that leads to more customers.

Snyder: Since no-one knows who KeyOn is, we are very gorrila in our approach. Our focus is on agents and resellers. We also do things in our communities through our customer base. If you provide a good, reliable service you customers are best sales force. We keep it very simple. Our product is a mass product, the core of the strategy is to keep very localized and augment with a local presence in the market, which a lot of the incumbents don't have.

Hoffman: It is easier to build an identity in a community rather than create a brand nationally. We use public relations to try and get to influencers when they make decisions. We target key tech publications thru PR and it is very cost-effective. Our sales teams are selling trust. That trust is first created by a sales person who is honest, candid and knowledgeable. I agree with the comments about deliverying great service so you have references.

Bader: We look to our customers to generate leads, especially in the consumer business. When we switched our focus to the enterprise market we had to do more to cultivate our own leads and relationships. IT managers are hard to reach so sponsored events and try to find them. We host seminars, events and work with community organizations. We try and plant our positioning in minds but not do a hard sell. We do find they calling us. We also have a direct sales force.

Where are you spending money and making investments?

Jasper: We need to invest in all sectors of our business. A large portion of our revenue is DSL products and the regulatory uncertainty is a little scary. So we're investing in diversification while also entrenching deeper. We're expecting growth and investing resources in partnerships.

Snyder: These days that capital is being spent on break-fix and making networks more reliable. We're really staying core to the network focus and spending where we have to increase reliability. We're acquiring businesses and adding to our network footprint.

Hoffman - Our focus is business and the phones have to run reliability. It is horrible to have phones down across the client base. After our investment in reliability, we're looking at sales and marketing expansion. Spend a lot on people and knowledge management. Because we're in New York, recruiting costs and labour costs going up. We're opening up in Chicago and Boston. Our focus is technology we need to move ahead of curve by focusing on vertical industries and build technology around our core phone system.

Bader: Recently invested about in our facilities and expanded our data centre to improve curb appeal. Our customers come and visit the data centre and it looks like a special place. Now we're working to fill the data centre - by end of next year our new expanded space should be full. Also placing investment on scaling system and processes. Our customers are looking for us to reliably manage their gear. Change control and management is a lot of what needs to be done. We're investing in systems to help customers set up and provision, enlarge and maintain. We're becoming more of an IT shop.

How is the wind blowing?

Jasper: We're very optimistic, but concernsed about the regulatory environment. The technology is maturing and the access space is growing rapidly.

Snyder: Telecom is coming back - equipment costs are coming down and there's an appetite for these products all over again. That makes it exciting and challenging because there are other things on the horizon you have to pay attention to. Each of us has an amazing focus on our respective business. Our business focus is that it is the product that makes us successful.

Bader: So many companies are technology and product oriented instead focused on customer. Ask the customer what services they want and have enough variability in the people to be able to deliver the services they want.

Jasper: Customers understand technology better and IT awareness has risen. It makes selling easier.

Snyder: We see drafting - as big companies create awareness of broadband and wireless, we benefit because now it is a product you can't live without.

What's your best idea for someone entering the ISP business today?

Jasper: Today, people need to develop an understanding of various sectors, the silos that Internet Service has become - hosting, VOIP, Internet Service and Access. People need to understand what's happened and ook at economics of today. Look at what the market place looks like and the benefits of tech changes and ebay-driven equipment marketing. Tech costs a fraction of what it did 5 years ago. It is a little bit difficult sometimes. Many of us started out as Internet providers in the mid-90s. Spent so much time dealing with challenges now is the time to set aside assumptions.

Bader: Explore key trends and then apply them to your expertise. For example the SaaS trend means IT technology is more important to every organization. Most struggle and can't rely on themsleves. Hosting services is one of the answers. Find a customer base, find a platform and a way to deliver service. Another trend is open source, every VAR is scared to death of open source. We know how to make money with free software and deploy for client. Take advantage of open source. The big boys are investing heavily. It is a big opportunity.

Hoffman: Picking up on SaaS; access is a new business relative to most business. All bandwidth is not created equal. Offer differentiated bandwidth products; from a provider that does a good job optimizing for VOIP, network performance. It is not anywhere on the market and is a huge opportunity.

Snyder: We see incredible, insatiable use of our access. Our bandwidth costs are rising. Usage patterns have fundamentally changed. There's perpetual streaming. It is growing and a huge opportunity to provide services to the end consumer who is going to use that bandwidth.

Bader: You gotta figure out how to take advantage of the assets you've got and move them forward. That's what this show is all about. If your goal is to maximize value and grow business; this show is where to figure out what to do next.
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