Former Purdue students and company solve communication problems with affordable telephone technology
Who they are
Cameron Weeks’ grandfather was 18 when he emigrated from England to start his own gas station and automotive shop in Lapel, Ind. Weeks was about 12 years old when his entrepreneurial gene surfaced. He persuaded his parents, who had inherited his grandfather’s gas station, to let him consolidate the gas pump and cash register interfaces with the latest point of sale technology.
As a Purdue freshman in 2007, Weeks, along with his best friend and roommate, Bracken Fields, spent late nights holed up in their dorm developing a system for a hotel that wanted to place a computer in every room. The project entailed arranging a rotating cluster of servers to accommodate multiple connections. It struck them that a similar server setup could be used to create a reliable, cost-efficient telephone system for businesses, an idea that prompted the students to leave the comfort of the University to join the competitive phone market.
What they're doing
At the outset, Weeks Communications provided 2,000 VoIP minutes at a rate of $65 per month. Now, thanks to improved efficiency and a growing customer base, customers receive unlimited monthly minutes and lower prices, which are dependent upon the packages they buy. Weeks and Fields also offer five-year price guarantees and allow their customers month-to-month service rather than locking them into the two- to five-year contracts commonly used by phone service companies.
To boost business and cost efficiency, one of their investors recommended cloud computing through Amazon Web Services as an alternative to setting up additional servers. As a result, Weeks and Field re-worked their original software so it could be supported in a virtual environment running on Amazon’s cloud system. Now, their company offers automated 24/7 support; when one server breaks, another virtual server replaces it within a 15-second window. Because the majority of their processes are automated, they’ve eliminated the need for a large support staff.
Currently located in the Flagship Enterprise Center in Anderson, Ind., Weeks Communications has added seven new employees, all of whom are under 30. The operation is the recipient of the Madison County’s Emerging Business of the Year Award, and continues to grow and evolve.
How they got there
The first phone system they designed belonged to the owner of a building in downtown Indianapolis, someone they had worked with previously who agreed to let them set up shop in exchange for their service. They used revenue from past projects as startup funding. The customer wanted to know whether they could build a phone system for less than $20,000. The idea was to replace "old school" analog telephone lines with Voice over Internet Protocol, creating cost-saving efficiencies and eliminating dropped connections. With an entire weekend of no sleep and large amounts of caffeine, the team was able to present the new phone system to the customer only five days after he had requested it.
A consultant they had worked with arranged an introduction to an RCA representative, who flew to Indianapolis to see their solution for himself. RCA liked the product and negotiations were soon underway. Weeks Communications beat out larger vendors such as Comcast and AT&T, but there was just one problem — as part of the contract terms, Weeks and Bracken needed to raise $100,000. Two mornings before the deadline, they had raised zero dollars and had no equity. But the day before the deadline, an angel investor who previously had been advising the team in the Flagship Enterprise Center, called to say he believed in their product, their vision and their plans for the future, and pledged $200,000.
"Most employees have one boss while entrepreneurs have hundreds. Because our customers are our bosses, it’s important to get their feedback on a concept before wasting too much time developing an idea that won’t be successful," Weeks says.