"It feels good," said
It's been a wild ride for Interactive, which went public in 1999, just before the technology bubble burst. The stock surged past
Brown is an even-keel guy who's been known to caution employees about getting too down when the stock is in the ellar or too full of themselves when the stock is soaring. But he hasn't delivered that message of temperance lately because he sees the robust stock price as built upon a solid foundation of innovation that made Interactive the leader in the call center software industry.
"Over the years, I have felt things that felt more like bubbles," said Brown, 57. "This time, we really have been growing very rapidly. We have been winning a lot of large deals over major competitors. So it all feels in line with reality."
The boom times have been a bonanza for Interactive employees who qualify for stock options and restricted stock. The surge also has given the city's economy a lift. About 1,200 of the company's 2,000 workers are in
The prosperous times stem from a bold decision the company made five years ago to take call center computing to the cloud. It sounds like a no-brainer now, given the popularity today of using remote servers to store, manage and process data. But back then, not everyone saw the trend as taking hold, especially for call center applications.
"To do it with real-time communications, the quality of voice is critical. The sensitivity of data is paramount. It was a lot less obvious customers were going to embrace that paradigm," Brown said. "We felt it would happen, but we did not know what the pace would be."
The strategy meant that investors who stuck with Interactive had to endure painful, break-even quarters as the company plowed millions into R&D and shifted away from reaping big, up-front payments when it landed customers. While a conventional,
By any measure, the bet paid off. Interactive now "is positioned as the leading technology player in the contact center software market for both on-premise and cloud solutions,"
Analysts say the company's cloud offerings top those of rivals, which include much larger companies, such as
In the third quarter, Interactive's cloud orders rose 75 percent, accounting for nearly half of orders. Analysts estimate the company will post
Interactive now has the scale to lure clients that once saw it as too small and unstable to do business with, said Brown, who spoke to IBJ by phone between customer meetings in
Interactive's profits remain meager - just
That's an eternity in the public-company realm, where executives usually fixate on hitting quarterly earnings targets. But Brown - who co-founded the city's first public software firm,
"We don't have any large institution out there rattling the cages and saying, 'You have to make money now.' So we pretty much called the shots and were pretty above board about what we were doing and why."
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