Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Interview with Brian Beutler, Alianza Corp.
Founded in 2004, Alianza Corp. (www.alianza.com) originally did business as a voice-over-Internet protocol service provider. The Lindon, Utah-based company gradually revised its business model, however, and by late last year, it had evolved from a service provider into a provider of its own hosted VoIP solution. Techrockies recently discussed Alianza's new direction with Brian Beutler, the company's co-founder and chief executive officer.
How long has Alianza been on the scene?
Brian Beutler: This is our first year licensing the hosted platform to wireless broadband service providers. We're up to 30 employees and we have 21 service-provider customers across North America.
How did the company come to exist?
Brian Beutler: I started it with our CTO, Scott Bell. We spun it out of BeeLine Long Distance.
The idea has evolved step by step. It's really hard to think of a definitive moment, unless it was winning the BYU business plan competition in April of 2005. That really helped launch us.
Could you give our readers a summary of what Alianza does?
Brian Beutler: We provide a hosted platform for WiMAX service providers looking to launch voice applications. Data is obviously core for them, but voice is the killer app, and we enable them to [provide VoIP services] faster, cheaper and better than they could on their own.
If I'm a WiMAX service provider looking to add voice service, what are my current options?
Brian Beutler: There are two alternatives right now. If you're a WiMAX service provider, you can build your own platform to offer voice applications, or you can license a hosted offering from Alianza and you'll get all the control and functionality as if you owned it, but we manage it for you.
There are six different components to that process. If a service provider chooses to build their own offering, they would have to build, license, integrate and manage the six components themselves. But we have already built and integrated all six components into one platform that they can manage on their own through one interface rather than six.
Basically, we eliminate the learning curve for them. Because our solution is software-as-a-service, they don't have to come up with any [capital expenditures]. So, rather than dumping their dollars into building out their infrastructure, they can dedicate it to spectrum acquisition and to broadening their footprint, which is their core competency.
Their big thing is to grow as fast as they can because WiMAX right now is all about green field opportunities and expanding footprints.
What are WiMAX's advantages compared to other wireless protocols such as Wi-Fi?
Brian Beutler: I'll do two comparisons.
Compared to Wi-Fi, WiMAX has very similar technology, but instead of having a 100 foot coverage radius, it has a 25 square-kilometer coverage area.
And if you compare it to 3G or GSM, WiMAX is four times faster and 10 times less expensive to deploy..
Is WiMAX dependent upon line of sight?
Brian Beutler: No, many WiMAX applications are point to multi-point. The signal will even bounce off buildings and mountains.
It's fundamentally different than traditional cellular, in that, from the core, it's an all-IP network, whereas my current cell phone, like 3G, is voice with data on top of it.
What sort of market share does WiMAX currently have, and where do you think it will be in the near future?
Brian Beutler: According to the WiMAX Forum and Maravedis Research, global WiMAX subscriptions will grow from less than 2 million in 2008 to over 130 million by 2012.
Our strategy is to grow as the industry explodes over the coming years.
Where is that growth focused at present?
Brian Beutler: The early market adopters for WiMAX are definitely focused on underserved markets, nationally and internationally. In the U.S., we're talking about communities that are more isolated, with 80,000 or less residents or even 100,000 or less. They're not NFL cities.
In those markets, the incumbent carriers have a strong hold. There's typically less competition and, as a result, pricing is very high. That's why WiMAX is highly disruptive. It comes in and changes the game for everybody.
Let's talk funding. Who are your backers?
Brian Beutler: vSpring Capital, University Venture Fund and the Utah Angels.
And what's your funding status?
Brian Beutler: Our Series A was $2 million. We did a Series B, which was $4 million, and now we're working on an extension of that, sort of a Series B-1, for $6 million more.
What would you do with that money?
Brian Beutler: International expansion.
Right now, we have a footprint across North America. Our 21 customers are located in the United States, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean.
We also have customers in our pipeline, very close to closing, in Central and South America. And through strategic partners, we're expanding our efforts into Asia Pacific, Europe and possibly Africa.