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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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
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
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
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
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
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