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Interview with Spencer Punter, Aztek Networks

Boulder, Colorado-based Aztek Networks (www.azteknetworks.net) recently raised a new round of venture capital, for the firm's hardened telecommunication switch, from investors Telecommunications Development Fund, Sequel Venture Partners, Grotech Capital Group, and Legend Ventures. To get a better idea of what the company is all about, we spoke with Spencer Punter, the company's VP Marketing and Business Development, about the company.

Congrats on the funding. For people who aren't familiar with your company and products, what do you do and how do you fit in the communications market?

Spencer Punter: Aztek Networks offers an Emergency Stand Alone (ESA) product called the Aztek 5000S ESA, a telecommunications network device that helps ensure public safety by constantly maintaining local calling capabilities and access to emergency 911 services in the event of an accidental cut to network service lines or natural disaster. In addition, the 5000S is an ideal solution for "switch collapse," whereby independent carriers can cost-effectively replace traditional legacy switches and proprietary remote switching units. Since its launch just three months ago, the Aztek 5000S has received strong market recognition and is currently installed and operational within the networks of several incumbent telecommunications companies in the United States.

From a market perspective, Aztek Networks uniquely addresses the growing need for telecommunications operators to upgrade core networks by removing old switches and replacing them with devices that have broadband capabilities. Because these next-generation network systems do not have local switching capabilities, Aztek Networks is able to help telecom operators maintain the highest levels of public safety by completing local calls if the main connection to the distance host is lost. Aztek Networks is committed to ensure reliable voice service and access to life-saving 911 emergency services.

What's the story behind the firm, and how did it start?

Spencer Punter: Aztek Networks started as Aztek Engineering in 1982. The company did consulting and custom development work for telecom equipment companies through the 80s and 90s. In the late 90s the company developed and sold software communications protocol stacks, also selling to telecom equipment companies. In 2002, the company focused it's resources on becoming a telecom equipment supplier and began developing it's own products. That effort was internally funded until the company received it's first round of venture capital funding in 2006. At that time, the company was renamed Aztek Networks and all employees were 100% focused on the "new" business of being a telecom equipment supplier to incumbent telephone companies.

What is this funding round going towards?

Spencer Punter: The funding we received will be used to increase and enhance the distribution network for our current product, the Aztek 5000S. In addition, the funds will be used for the development of future Emergency Stand Alone solutions that will be based on new and widely deployed Voice-over-IP (VoIP) protocols.

How far along is the firm in terms of stage and deployment of your products?

Spencer Punter: Aztek Network's first product, the Aztek 5000S, was brought to market in early June of 2007. The company plans to introduce future Emergency Stand Alone telecommunications products in early 2008.

Equipment manufacturers tell us it's often tough to get in the door at the telecommunications firms with new hardware--how have you been approaching the telecoms, and how has that gone?

Spencer Punter: It can be difficult to get in the door with carriers. We have tackled that problem two ways: (1) we are going direct and through channels to the smaller rural carriers, who will be our primary target market for the first two years. These smaller carriers are typically more receptive to new vendors and more willing to experiment with newer technologies. (2) We will leverage our partners to get access to smaller and larger carriers. These partners, such as Calix, already have established relationships with the carriers and require our product to complete their solution offering. We plan to announce other telecom equipment partners over the course of the next 12 months.

Finally, how many employees do you have here in Boulder now?

Spencer Punter: We have 36 employees based in Boulder. The rest are located in the sales territories.

Thanks for the interview!