David Miller, 29, President of Quantum
"It was a conscious decision," Miller says. "We threw around a lot of different ideas and decided to do something really unique."
Quantum Telecom Solutions, Miller's Paramus, N.J.-based company, is all about unique products. The company builds operating systems for programmable switches that allow its customers, large companies and telecom service providers, to customize their own applications. "We're in a very specific niche," Miller says. Prepaid calling card giant SmarTalk TeleServices is one of QTS' biggest clients. So is GTE's Airphone division.
Miller started the company in October 1994, when he learned there was no real infrastructure for programmable telecommunication switches. The company developed a software tool kit for programming them, called SwitchKit, in partnership with switch manufacturer Excel Switching Corp. of Hyannis, Mass. "We developed our own partner category," he says.
With 15 employees, Miller says QTS is as desperately understaffed as most technology companies. "There are so many opportunities, we have to choose sometimes."
A native of Long Island, Miller says his father, an attorney with his own practice, instilled in him an entrepreneurial spirit. While still at MIT, Miller worked part time at the telecommunications lab Bellcore. "It was a fantastic environment and I had a lot of independence," Miller says. But it bothered him that his research work wasn't making it into the real world.
He started a consulting company to "keep busy and generate some cash flow," and looked for his start-up opportunity. When programmable switches entered the marketplace, Miller signed on a partner, dipped into his savings and started QTS in his apartment.
Miller, whose easy, boyish grin is somewhat offset by his 6-foot-1-inch frame, says there have been low points along the way. "We've lost business that we should have had," he admits wistfully. "We're technical people, not sales people. When you get embroiled talking about prices, it's the most frustrating thing in the world."
Now armed with a few sales people, Miller expects to see aggressive growth in the market and in the company in the coming year. Miller hopes to close on a first round of venture funding sometime this summer, staff up to 40 people by the end of the year, and ramp up sales from 1997's $2 million to $6 million this year.
"We're seeing the tip of the iceberg right now," he says.
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