Newcomer Grande takes on broadband behemoths

By Bob Trott, InfoWorld |  Software

Texas startup uses CVM tools to help win customers the old-fashioned way -- door-to-door

The cliché "pick on someone your own size" has fallen on deaf ears at Grande Communications. If the Austin, Texas-based bundler of voice, video, and high-speed data services had heeded that advice, it might not be in the game today.

The upstart broadband overbuilder -- a company that provides competitive services in a region using its own cable lines -- is going up against some stiff competition in central Texas, trying to win over customers from a wide array of powerhouse providers, including Cox Cable Time Warner, for cable TV, and Southwestern Bell, a subsidiary of SBC Communications, for broadband and telephony.

CEO Bill Morrow says that there is plenty of business to go around and that winning over customers from those industry giants won't break them.

"This market has not had a choice in decades," Morrow says.

The market is a tantalizing one. Great gains in technology coupled with deregulation have cable TV providers, telephone companies, DSL and direct satellite providers, and cable overbuilders all rushing to offer the full package of voice, video, and data to consumers via a high-speed network.

Grande got off to an impressive start last February, raising $232 million in its seed money round -- the largest cash-for-equity deal in Texas history, according to Morrow. The company, which Morrow refers to as a "new builder," because Grande is building an entirely new fiber-optic network that replaces existing cable, began work on its deep fiber network only three months later. Grande secured another $25 million in funding last September, thanks to Houston-based Reliant Energy.

The big question, of course, was how to attract customers. Morrow and Grande decided to do it the old-fashioned way: door-to-door. What they needed was software that would facilitate such a deliberate, time-consuming process.

That's where CaritaSoft came in. After reviewing the market options, Grande settled on the Austin software company, which specializes in CVM (customer value management) solutions to broadband service providers, including video, voice, data, security, and utilities.

According to Morrow, the key factor for Grande was the ability of the CaritaSoft CVM Suite to keep lifetime data on customers' needs, information critical to maintaining strong, long-term relationships.

CVM is a step up the evolutionary ladder from CRM (customer relationship management), according to Richard Stolp, director of corporate marketing for CaritaSoft, a 40-person startup that was founded in 1996.

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