Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:32 pm
Five years after selling his first high-tech company, Inc.Net, to Time Warner Telecom, Alec Ellsworth is back in Milwaukee, nurturing another new venture.
Ellsworth started the new company, Resilient Networks, in May 2003. The firm is a regional integrated communications provider, a telecommunications firm with a focus on data networking, that serves small and mid-sized businesses.
The company leases space at 3701 W. Burnham St. near Miller Park.
"I like to call them a next-generation ISP (Internet service provider)," said Neil Biondich Jr., chief executive officer of Red Anvil LLC, a strategic partner of Resilient Networks.
Internet service is one of several services Resilient provides to its customers. The firm provides a suite of traditional and advanced services designed to extend the reach of its customers’ IT infrastructure, increase flexibility and improve cost effectiveness.
"It’s focused on what the market needs," Ellsworth said. "That’s why we’re here."
Ellsworth left Time Warner Telecom about 1-1/2 years after the firm acquired his company in 1999. When he left, Ellsworth signed an 18-month non-compete clause and observed the telecommunications marketplace, pondering business ideas.
Several business plans came his way during that time.
"Most of them were either killed in the idea phase or the equity structure phase," Ellsworth said.
In April 2003, Time Warner Telecom decided to move its data operations to Denver, where the company is based.
Five of Ellsworth’s former employees decided they didn’t want to move to Denver. Instead, they chose to work with Ellsworth to start a new venture.
"I picked out all of the shining stars," he said. "I knew who they were, of course. I talked to them. Ideas flowed. We had a desire to do something in a creative way that was beneficial to customers."
Inc.Net was a major success during the high-tech boom of the 1990s.
Ellsworth had graduated from Marquette University in 1994, where he studied dentistry. However, he was interested in computers. So that year, Ellsworth and his co-founder, Ryan Brooks, formed Internet Connect, which later become known as Inc.Net. The firm, which provided high-speed Internet service for businesses customers, was located at the Milwaukee County Research Park in Wauwatosa.
Inc.Net grew from start-up to a company with 25 employees and $8 million in annual revenues. The firm served businesses in 15 Midwestern cities. In 1998, Inc.Net won a contract from Time Warner Telecom to provide service in 18 other cities located across the nation. Then in 1999, Time Warner Telecom acquired Inc.Net.
Ellsworth said he left Time Warner Telecom because he was unhappy with the direction that company was taking his former firm.
"They squandered the talent and potential of the group we had together, and they assimilated us into the telecom culture," he said. "And that, we felt and I felt specifically, that was a mis-step."
"There’s a big culture difference between traditional telecom and data communications industries," said Tom Nelsen, president and chief operating officer for Resilient Networks and one of the five "shining stars" who re-joined Ellsworth from Time Warner Telecom. "Telecom is based upon a very close set of rules and regulations. The upside of that is you have a lot of discipline that is integrated into that philosophy. The downside is you become very rigid and slow. We come from a background of being more nimble, more flexible, more technology-oriented, innovative."
Ellsworth and his team have been developing their business for the last year and a half and have been serving a small number of customers during that development period.
"Our mission statement is to leverage our experience in networking to bring enterprise-class technologies and services to small and mid-sized businesses," Nelsen said. "Traditionally, they don’t have the resources to implement those new technologies and services that make them more productive and efficient. So, that means we’re focusing on products and services that reduce the customer’s operating cost and makes their network more resilient, which means more flexible to add new applications as well as being more redundant and reliable when failures and disasters occur."
After he left Time Warner Telecom, Ellsworth said he tried to determine the business needs that were not being met in the telecommunications marketplace. He concluded that many businesses are struggling to: deal with Internet spam and computer viruses; find ways to reduce network redundancy in a cost-affective way; protect critical data; and handle poor customer service from some other telecommunications companies.
"We’re providing the solution to those and other issues," Ellsworth said.
Resilient Networks strives to provide a high level of customer service to meet the needs of customers, Ellsworth said. Many telecommunications companies try to sell a wide array of services to their customers, even if they aren’t needed, he said. That may be beneficial in the short term, but customers become unhappy in the long term, he said.
"We want to add value to the customer," Nelsen said. "That’s a main difference from the other providers that are out there. In a lot of cases, they want (to sell) the whole pot, whether it’s in the customer’s best interest or not."
Business continuity is one of the services Resilient is focusing on to help customers avoid crippling data loss during an emergency.
"After 9/11, everybody is concerned about disaster recovery," Nelsen said. "And only the big (businesses) have access to those types of services."
Resilient also is focusing on providing converged services to lower the operating costs of its customers and enable them to be more flexible. That includes Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services.
"By combining voice and data on the same access line to the customer, you reduce their access costs," Nelsen said. "What’s becoming the greater operational cost savings is the flexibility that allows you to create new applications to make the business more efficient. An example would be a distributed call center where you could have people doing telework out of their homes that are part of a complete voice and data call center system. That reduces the cost of building expense and also keeps employees very happy and satisfied with the work environment."
Resilient also handles the growing chores businesses have with combating spam and computer viruses.
"A company of 25 employees, you could put a whole full-time equivalent (employee) on spam, virus, OS updates, firewall and all of the things that come with dealing with the onslaught throughout the network," Ellsworth said. "It has increased crazily since the beginning of the year. There’s been a ramp-up you wouldn’t believe."
"The impact to the small and mid-sized business is paralyzing, because they have very small IT departments to begin with, and they are all consumed with dealing with spam and virus and general security issues," Nelsen said. "The bottom line is the small to mid-sized business cannot work on innovative applications to streamline their business if they’re busy dealing with this."
Resilient has formed strategic partnerships with several other businesses to provide a one-stop shop for all of the services its customers need. The firm’s strategic partners are: Red Anvil, which develops Web-based applications; CableCom, a fiber optic infrastructure firm,; SecurePipe, a Madison-based network security services firm; and Time Warner Cable.
Red Anvil and CableCom are located in the same building on Burnham Street where Resilient operates. Resilient and Red Anvil each own 50 percent of the network infrastructure in the building.
With those tenants and its access to fiber optic infrastructure, the building should become an attractive spot for other high-tech firms, Ellsworth predicts. Much of the building, owned by Don Kubenik, is still vacant.
"It makes that building kind of a hot spot," Ellsworth said.
Resilient’s main network operating center at Burnham Street recently went live. The company plans to host tours of its facility for customers soon.
"We interact with the customer," Ellsworth said. "We plan to pull the curtain back on the Oz that goes on in telecommunications and networking. Come on down, let’s look at how it works. Talk to the technicians that built it. Here’s how our stuff works. What are your needs? It’s an interesting approach."
CEO: Alec Ellsworth
Number of employees: 10
Location: 3701 W. Burnham St., Suite A, Milwaukee
Web page: www.resilient-networks.net
Resilient Networks, integrated communications provider (www.resilient-networks.net).
Red Anvil, LLC, Web-based application developer, (www.redanvil.net).
CableCom, LLC fiber optic infrastructure firm (www.cablecomllc.com).
SecurePipe, network security services firm (www.securepipe.com).
Time Warner Cable, cable Internet service, (www.timewarnercable.com).
Strategic partners started in County Research Park
When he was developing Resilient Networks, Alec Ellsworth knew of some other high-tech firms whose services would complement those that his firm provides.
As a result, Resilient has formed strategic partnerships with: Red Anvil LLC, which develops Web-based applications; CableCom, a fiber optic infrastructure firm; Secure Pipe, a Madison-based network security services firm; and Time Warner Cable, which provides high-speed cable Internet access.
The partners each provide a different service that all of their customers typically need, Ellsworth said.
CableCom provides fiber optic infrastructure, Resilient turns it into a network and Red Anvil provides basic Web applications for the network. All three of those companies are located in the same building in Milwaukee at 3701 W. Burnham St.
In a way, Ellsworth and those firms have graduated from Milwaukee County’s high-tech incubator, where they all got started.
"The principals of these companies I met at the (Milwaukee County) Research Park," Ellsworth said.
"Both of our businesses have complimentary services that don’t overlap," said Neil Biondich Jr., chief executive officer of Red Anvil, LLC. "If you want to provide all of the services that your customers need, you either have to do everything or form strategic partnerships."
"It makes a lot of sense," Ellsworth said. "We each have our specific roles. We don’t overlap at all. The sales forces (for each company) work together. Literally, they have weekly meetings. It’s a great way to do business in this current environment."
The firms can do a better job of serving their customers by focusing on a smaller niche and using the strategic partnerships to provide the additional services their customers need, Biondich said.
"Anytime you have to spread your focus onto too many things, your expertise is going to suffer," he said.
Ellsworth believes the relationships the strategic partners have with each other is unique.
"Most company owners might be leery of not having total control," he said. "But it has worked out really well."
– Andrew Weiland, of SBT
October 1, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI