RALEIGH — Even in the age of coronavirus, big deals are getting done. Look no further than the Triangle’s homegrown software communications company, Bandwidth.
Slightly more than 20 years ago, its CEO and founder David Morken, fresh from serving in the Marine Corps as an advocate judge, started the company in a spare bedroom in Raleigh.
Today, the attorney-turned-entrepreneur is getting ready to build new headquarters for that company — on a 40-acre plot of land to be purchased from the State of North Carolina for $30 million.
The uptick: creating 1,165 new jobs with an average salary of $96,832 and generating more than $100 million in capital investments to the region.
WRAL TechWire’s Chantal Allam recently had the chance to catch up with him on Zoom during this period of quarantine. Here’s what he had to say:
- This is exciting news for Bandwidth. How long has this been in the works for?
Well, it depends on how you define in the works. We’ve had a vision for a great space for our future for several years. And I think that it would be accurate to describe the pace quickening and becoming in earnest about two years ago.
The particular details around this state land has really been something that’s been in the works over the last year.
- Nice. The last time, WRAL TechWire caught up with you, Bandwidth was growing exponentially. At the time, you had just hit the $2 billion mark. So how many employees do you have now?
So we went from 378 to 700. And we’ve grown since then. So I think the last public figure that we released was something like around the 700-mark. We’re well above that now. The way we’re thinking about our initial capacity for the building on this space would be to design for 2000-2500 people.
- So what is driving all this growth?
It’s customers; it’s taking care of customers, but it’s also working well with colleagues.
So the opportunity we have really is broad. What we do is so vital and important to so many enterprise customers that we have domestic as well as international opportunity now that’s broad. It spans customers that only have several employees, to reach lots of people that are text messaging, to large entities that have 50,000 employees. It’s customers in all 50 states, our network and platform reach across the country. We’re based here in Raleigh, but it’s because of the nature of our mission, which is to develop and deliver the power to communicate. And if you do that well over 20 years, you have more opportunity.
- And so how are you being impacted by COVID-19?
We’re very fortunate that our team has been able to rally around the clock to keep up with the customers who we serve, who are responding to the work from home mandates by government.
As knowledge workers are required to work from home, many of our customers that we serve have scaled up. Customers that we’ve talked about for years — like Google, Microsoft, Zoom, RingCentral and others — we’ve been working around the clock to keep up with those demands.
And I’m very, very grateful to our team that has gone the extra mile during this season. That hasn’t been easy.
- This is obviously a disruptive event for the world. But do you think Bandwidth stands to benefit from the disruption from an innovation and business perspective?
Certainly, we connect people who aren’t face-to-face in person. That’s the nature of our service. And so working from home is something we’ve had to support, and I’m cognizant of how much pressure are is on so many different customers that we have.
We have some who benefits we have other customers that the current environment really hurts, and so when you when you net it a lot, or it remains to be seen what the overall impact will be for our business.
But the season that we’re in is incredibly demanding overall, as some of our customers experience huge spikes. Others need help paying their bills, and so we’re going through all of that at the same time.
- Do you see the company pivoting at all to meet this new reality?
The long-term strategy has focused on new markets like international for what we do so well. Clearly cross border communication is now at a premium, and our ability to serve customers across the European Union, where it’s hard to now travel across borders, is more important than ever.
So while you say pivot, it’s actually crystallizing our focus on a strategic priority that we’ve known about for a while, and it really refreshes us and focuses us on how valuable it is to connect people across international borders. So that that’s a good a good response to the current season.
- OK, let’s get back to plans for your new HQ in Raleigh. I understand you also considered Denver, and Rochester, New York as well?
We have offices in both. We’re actively hiring in both. We want to hire here; we are bias to grow here. We wanted to work with the State to have a motivation to hire here instead of Denver or Rochester or Austin, or Seattle, or San Francisco or the Bay Area.
So this grant that we received is fantastic because it let’s us declare that where we’ve grown up is where we’re going to stay, and nd it’s where we’re going to have our headquarters.
Our hiring of 1,165 people over eight years is going to be focused here.
- So how big of a did that grant weigh in your decision to stay put?
It’s material. It’s material, you’re talking about 32 million reasons to stay and invest in North Carolina. We are a North Carolina story. We are North Carolina raised, and for the state of North Carolina to come alongside, for the first time in our history and say, ‘We want to motivate and send you to continue your growth here, rather than biasing to where you have locations out of the state or to moving to an Austin or somewhere.’ It’s meaningful, very meaningful.
- So how long do you think it will take to get into your new headquarters?
I’m laughing because my team driving this effort would hate for me to say two years, or better not say two years. But our hope is by the end of 2022. That will be my exceeded expectations target.
- What kinds of jobs are you hiring for? I know that the average salary is around $92,000?
It is, and that salary and benefits combined; it’s for roles that include software development, network engineering, sales. Those are positions they’re well paid, but we have hiring across the board but the preponderance are in the technical areas, as well as sales.
- So what are your expansion plans there? Any plans for an acquisition?
You know, we’ve only done one acquisition [Dash Carrier Services] in 20 years, and that was in 2011. It was a $20 million dollar acquisition of a company in Denver. We’ve since tripled the size of the Denver space since then.
So we’re a very focused team that builds. It’s certainly something that is possible, and that we would evaluate appropriately. But we’ve grown in North Carolina, primarily by building.
- So maybe you would build over there as well?
We’ve built out in Frankfurt and in London, points of presence for our platform and network. Those are international areas where we do have presence already.