Broadnet gains worldwide attention

Posted 4/24/10

One the telecommunications industry’s most innovative minds has purposely kept himself off the national radar for the last few years, but he has …

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Broadnet gains worldwide attention


One the telecommunications industry’s most innovative minds has purposely kept himself off the national radar for the last few years, but he has been right in the heart of Highlands Ranch the entire time.

Steve Patterson, the confident, smooth-talking 37-year-old chief executive officer and co-founder of Broadnet, has laid low for good reason. He, along with a team of forward-thinking grads from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been busy quietly building a teleservices company that is single-handedly reshaping the way the most influential people in the world reach their audiences. Quite frankly, he didn’t want anyone to catch on.

“In the first few years, the chance of me doing an interview was zero because we were working on it and we didn’t want to give anyone the opportunity to catch us,” Patterson says, seated on a large inflated exercise ball in his modest office in the Shea Homes office complex at Lucent Boulevard and Plaza Drive. “There is still some risk to being on the radar screen, but the market understands that if a universe of 5,000 people [is] interested in you, we have most compelling way to communicate with them. So I’ve got to make sure the world understands.”

Within just the last year, Broadnet’s TeleForum service reached more than 100 million people. It was used for an hour-long CNN forum in which President Barack Obama took questions from ordinary citizens on his healthcare push.

TeleForum also has been adopted by professional sports teams, campaigning politicians, authors, school districts, members of congress, and a number of business organizations that are interested in having an intimate conversation with their clientele. The service accounts for 80 percent to 90 percent of the company’s business.

The way it works is simple. As Patterson puts it, Broadnet is using technology to recreate a lost art: conversational interaction. He points to how, over the last 15 years, digitalization caused a transition in which people began exchanging impersonal e-mails and looking up Internet content that was not exactly interactive. Enter a technology that has already been around for well over a century: the telephone.

It began with an early prototype of today’s service. Broadnet, on behalf of politicians and other public figures, would record a message from that person and send it via telephone to those interested in the content. It was effective in getting a message out to a large audience within a short amount of time, but it was not interactive.

Now interested parties receive a phone call that invites them to stay on the line to join a teleconference, and possibly even have the chance to speak live with the person. The public figures can send a message directly to their audience without the spin of a media report. TeleForum reaches audiences of 50,000 to 2 million people, and Patterson has ambitious, but surprisingly realistic, plans to reach a global audience.

The company, Patterson says, had only one strict discipline from the beginning: “We did not want to send people calls they didn’t want to get.”

That meant turning away big money from solicitors and spamming companies. Some industry insiders thought Broadnet officials were crazy, but the move helped lend credibility to the company and its services.

Most recently, the Jacksonville Jaguars football franchise enlisted Broadnet’s TeleForum service to ask its base of season ticket holders whether the team should draft University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. Many assumed that the in-state phenom would get the nod from fans, but they voted, with the press of a button, against the move by a 55 percent majority. The team was able to poll fans live, and the fans were happy to have the chance for input on a major decision, Patterson said.

“If you’re talking to an audience you know cares, you can get public feedback and make yourself more accessible,” he said, adding the participation rates are “stunning.”

Staying out of the public eye for so many years has Broadnet operating without any major competitors. But the company’s success is also due in part to Patterson’s relaxed management style and ability to find cream-of -the-crop employees. Since 2006, Broadnet has expanded to 30 employees.

Patterson’s first decision was to partner with two former colleagues: Mike Davis, whose weapon of choice is effective salesmanship, and Brian Brown, who is described as a “programmer extraordinaire” on the company’s Web site. Broadnet’s co-owners started the company in a basement, had meetings at a Littleton restaurant and began without a small business loan or investors. Last August, the rising telecomm giant was ranked No. 54 on Inc. 500’s list of the fastest-growing businesses in the nation.

Patterson, who grew up in southwest Colorado and comes from a family of entrepreneurs, has even taken some notice. His name is frequently mentioned in local business circles as one of the most promising up-and-coming CEOs in the Denver metro area. He appreciates, but tries to deflect much of the attention.

“I grew up in Delores, Colorado,…it’s flattering and humbling, but at the same time, it’s critical that we pay as little attention to it as possible,” he said. “We’re not movie stars. We’re just doing something neat and it’s fun.”

But his humble demeanor has apparently not affected his determination to change the world, literally. Although money is not a huge driving factor, one of Patterson’s goals is to bring Broadnet’s revenues to $100 million. The number was between $15 million and $20 million last year; there is little doubt 2010 figures will surpass that total. However, there are no plans to take the firm public.

The Highlands Ranch-based company is making the world smaller, but those who run it have big aspirations.

“What was neat was to see our technology being used live on CNN for an hour with the president and taking questions from a national audience about what’s going on,” he said. “I want to do that for the world.”


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