Experience of youth

Having the guts and the savvy to say 'No can do' to the boss when an assignment seems unrealistic might make even the most experienced executive feel uncomfortable, but it is the kind of courage Bandwidth.com's CTO earned early in his employment with the company.

          Having the guts and the savvy to say "No can do" to the boss when an assignment seems unrealistic might make even the most experienced executive feel uncomfortable, but it is the kind of courage Bandwidth.com chief technical officer (CTO) Matt Kramer learned early in his employment with the company.

          Just as Kramer was close to completing work on a system that would allow the Research Triangle Park, North Carolina-based company to input order information and monitor the provisioning of those orders, Bandwidth.com's CEO Henry Kaestner approached Kramer about opening up the new system to company partners. Kaestner wanted a wider system that outside consultants could use just as easily as the company's sales force up and running in about a week, even if only on a temporary basis.

          "Henry, I'm not going to be able to do that, primarily for security reasons," Kramer told his boss after reviewing his options.

          Although Kramer has had prior experience as a high-level manager, he isn't a seasoned veteran in this kind of debate: He is only 19 years old.

          "It came back to [the hope that] if I explain my reasoning to him, he'll understand, and we can move on," Kramer says. "In that regard, I didn't really have trouble saying no because it needed to be said."

          Kramer's mature attitude helps him juggle work as both a full-time CTO and as a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he is working on a combined bachelors and masters degree in computer science and accountancy. He shuttles between Illinois, North Carolina, and his native Denver, where he still runs his own consulting business, Kramer Unlimited.

          Kramer came to Bandwidth.com in July 2001 with a fairly impressive resume for someone not long out of high school. Previously, he had been the CTO of Bandwidthmarket.com in Denver where he worked for two years before founding his consultancy, where he is still president and lead developer.

          Kramer was 15 when he started at Bandwidthmarket.com. "They hired me on because the people who were starting that company knew they had to incorporate computers and knew nothing about computers, and they did not have a lot of money to spend," he says.

          Bandwidth.com's business model relies on the somewhat chaotic nature of the current telecom market. Customers turn to Bandwidth.com looking for ways to navigate everything from choosing a provider to monitoring breakdowns and problems. But the key is that the customers don't pay Bandwidth.com. The providers do.

          "[The carriers] had no problem with what we were doing. ... They just knew that we were getting them business," Kramer says.

          Now that Bandwidth.com is bringing in a bigger volume of business, carriers are paying better commissions as well as providing better service access. "If you [are a customer who has] a problem with your T1 line, you can send us your trouble ticket, and we will call up the carrier and get a response within a few hours instead of a few days," Kramer says.

          That kind of service was a selling point for Lee Warren, a systems administrator at Eagle Research, a San Francisco-based software development company that provides custom applications for large companies. "[Bandwidth] said they would promise to [represent] us in case we had any difficulties with our provider, so we would go from being less of a small-fry company to having more clout."

          Although Kramer is helping drive Bandwidth.com's success while college students his age might merely be trying to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives, he says he won't rest on his laurels. "I do not see myself in 15 years sitting down on some estate and being rich and relaxing for the rest of my days," he says. "I love the challenge of computers. I love the challenge of humans interacting with computers."


          Matt Kramer, Bandwidth.com

          * Title: Chief technical officer

          * Reports to: CEO Henry Kaestner and president David Morken

          * Mission: To fix the telecommunications industry

          * Education: Earning computer science bachelors/masters at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

          * Career: CTO of Bandwidthmarket.com in 1997; president and lead developer of Kramer Unlimited (1997 through present)

          * Favourite e-business site: www.siliconvalley.com

          * Favourite escape: Mountain climbing

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