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Unified Communications
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Rich Tehrani

Group Editor-in-Chief

Terry Matthews' Wake Up Call: Benbria's BlazeCast

Whereas other 65-year-olds think of retirement, Canadian billionaire entrepreneur Terry Matthews, founder of Mitel (in 1973), Newbridge Networks (in 1986) and many dozens of other companies related to telecom and the Internet, continues to launch and/or nurture exciting new startups regularly. While most entrepreneurs are one-trick ponies, Matthews spends much of his time identifying gaps in his portfolio of companies and then develops a business plan and often manages to get the product out and generating revenue within a year. At the moment he's got 7 new companies incubating or actually generating revenue, each one staffed by energetic college grads. Matthews finds that new grads will eagerly work around-the-clock and they'll accept a lower ($25-$30,000) salary in addition to equity in the company. He works with universities to highlight and select top graduates and prefers people who are team players as opposed to those who simply earned high marks in school.


"It's important that the company wins and not just the individual," says Matthews.

In any case, former students almost always fall under the spell of Matthews' infectious enthusiasm and charismatic persona - not to mention the allure of being able to start their own company.

Take Benbria Corporation, for example, co-founded in 2007 by three recent University of Waterloo grads: Mason Du, Alicia Liu, and Ronald Richardson. Benbria (taking the name of the first house built by Alexander Graham Bell), based in Ottawa's Kanata suburb, makes unified communications software and applications for broadcasting alert notification messages through phone and paging networks via Internet technology. Benbria's BlazeCast mass notification and IP paging solution can quickly communicate to large or targeted groups of people.

Benbria's BlazeCast IP Paging advances the old idea of paging far beyond what was available in the era of analog technology. The standards-based BlazeCast offers much wider coverage across separate buildings and geographies. It's more flexible in that you can page to a single speaker or do dynamic grouping, can be set to automatically alert everyone of a outage or failure, is easier to use (you can broadcast from anywhere and page people with a visual interface), and it's even more secure than analog systems, since it offers tiered access based on passwords.

You might ask, "But what about SMS? Everybody has that in the cell phones, don't they?"

As it happens, relying on just the Short Messaging Service and phone calls isn't really a reliable means of mass notification. SMS messages are not exactly inexpensive to send for either an organization (or sometimes the recipient) and SMS technology doesn't even guarantee delivery nor time of delivery, so your terrorist, flood, tornado or other warning may disappear or show up days later. As for phone calls, schools and hospitals require people to have their mobile phones turned off while on the premises, and many people don't like giving out their phone number because of privacy or security concerns. Besides, many phone numbers regularly change and are never up-to-date.

BlazeCast, however, takes all kinds of different notification methods - paging, email, text, SMS, VoIP/phone systems. etc. - and integrates them, enabling you to broadcast messages in various forms all at once. It has unique apps that can lock down PCs for a phone BlazeCast .

It has obvious application in the world of vertical markets, such as education and homeland security/government.

"One of my best-known companies, Mitel, also serves many verticals," says Matthews. "That means we can learn from our many types of customers and prospective customers. Indeed, working closely with a prospective client means that we can reduce the speculative nature of research and development. Feedback from customers enables us to focus on what's important. We can 'hone down' new products to a more manageable set - there's always that decision-making instant when you decide to go ahead with something or not. Products can appear in less than a year after their formulation, and any problems with them are also generally resolved within a year's time."

"I've started over 80 companies in my career," says Matthews. "and it continues to be exciting. It's just as exciting seeing these bright young people drive our 'startup engine' and become major players in the industry themselves."

Terry Matthews should know. He founded Mitel when he was 29.

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