High Speed Crow founder and president Bryan King makes no apologies for his company's humble beginnings. In fact, King is quite proud of them.
The Manitoba-owned company was established in 2003 to provide high-speed Internet services to communities that had few options when it came to accessing the information highway.
King came up with the idea for the company soon after moving to Selkirk and discovering his new home didn't have access to high-speed Internet. A former senior architect for tech giants IBM and EDS, he started his own network and began offering to connect his neighbours. Before he knew it, he had several thousand customers and a good chunk of the Internet business in rural Manitoba.
Today, High Speed Crow (HSC) is one of the top-ranked Internet providers in the country, with a growing customer base throughout the province, including Winnipeg. It also has dozens of employees who provide everything from installation services to technical support. Still, King fondly recalls the early days when he had two dozen employees working out of his basement in East Selkirk.
"I always tell people if it was good enough for Hewlett Packard to start in a garage it was good enough for me," he laughs. Perhaps the best indication of how much the company has progressed was its 2013 selection by PROFIT Magazine as one of Canada's fastest growing companies. It was ranked No. 272 overall on the prestigious PROFIT 500 list - and No. 4 in the communications industry, based on five-year revenue growth of 212 per cent. "I was pleasantly surprised and humbled," King says. "Once we get into measurements among our peers and we are in the top half it shows that when you build the right team you can move forward quite quickly.
"I think it also shows the plan for what we've been doing is definitely working. We take the profits and invest them right back into infrastructure. The main thing is this is going to be more than a five- or six-year company. Everything we've done has been with the intent of becoming a 50- or 60-year company, which is a long time for a technology company."
HSC is leading innovation in Manitoba, developing new prototypes and processes. As well, a major portion of HSC's investment in infrastructure has been devoted to upgrading its carrier grade network from wireless to fiber-optic cable, an effort that began two years ago. The network offers speeds of up to 1,000 megabits per second, which is comparable to the speeds achievable on most satellites in space.
King says the expansion of the company's fiber-optic network has been driven primarily by customer demand. These days, people need higher speeds for emerging technology, such as streaming media and virtual reality headsets. "It's all about the demands of the Internet," he says. "If you go back 15 years ago no one heard of Facebook or applications like Dropbox. It's amazing how much things have changed in that time."
The same could be said of HSC itself. Since 2003, the company has expanded its service area to include Winnipeg and several neighbouring communities such as Dugald, Lorette and St. Francois Xavier. It also provides service to a number of government agencies as well as start-up enterprises such as North Forge Technology Exchange, an economic development agency based in Winnipeg's Innovation Alley. HSC has also forged a connection with - and for - visitors to the annual Winnipeg Folk Festival at Birds Hill Park. HSC has provided Wi-Fi at the summer music festival for the past six years.
"They have a special place in my heart," King says. "They've been doing this for 42 years now and it's all based on volunteers. It's quite an operation they have going on there."
While King is understandably proud of HSC's success over the past 13 years, he says there is still plenty of room for growth. In fact, he expects the company to double in size again within the next four years. One key component of the company's expansion plan involves a greater focus on creating market awareness of HSC and the services it provides for Manitoba businesses, nonprofits and homeowners.
"In the past couple of months when we've met with technology companies in the city, they all had the same comment afterwards," King says. "They didn't know how big we were and that we were able to do everything from start to finish."
For more information on High Speed Crow, visit: http://highspeedcrow.ca
Want to meet Bryan? You'll find him at a TEN Event