Breaking the Code

BrokenCurve refocuses its technology for growth

Sometimes, even the experts can make missteps when it comes to implementing technology solutions. In 2006, when Neil Nelson and Iziah Reid launched BrokenCurve (www.brokencurve.com), they had no idea that technology would change their business strategy—for the better. Initially, Nelson, 30, who holds degrees from Morris Brown College and Georgia Institute of Technology, and Reid, the company’s chief technology officer, a 30-year-old New York native, launched BrokenCurve to develop software that would deliver media content such as videos, music, and film, targeted at the African diaspora via Internet Protocol (IP) to TV set-top boxes. That was the plan, at least. The two poured roughly $150,000 of personal funds into the Atlanta-based startup—then floundered for nine months.

During that time, the duo realized that BrokenCurve needed to revisit its own technology strategy. So they decided on a new tack. They switched to designing software that would enable them to assemble various technologies into a content delivery network (CDN) platform for small businesses and entrepreneurs, who, like them, were looking for cost-effective technology solutions for their companies. The company’s CDN platform makes it easy for entrepreneurs, particularly those in the urban space, to create a Web presence. BrokenCurve provides site development and maintenance, site optimization, digital and consumer-engagement strategies, and security solutions.

“We thought it was important to create an urban technology solutions provider that could reach across the globe into the various places where urban communities reside and play,” says Nelson, the company’s CEO. BrokenCurve typically charges clients an initial fee between $35,000 and $50,000 per project.

To save money, the company uses “cloud computing” components from Amazon.com. Amazon’s Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2) and Simple Storage Service (S3) components allow companies to use virtual computers and servers. This gives developers with limited budgets access to similar resources and infrastructure as larger firms, at a fraction of the cost. This also allows BrokenCurve to employ its greening strategy—companies pay only for what they use.

In May 2008, BrokenCurve snagged its first customers: LiveSteez.com and DimeWars.com. Sustainable Atlanta (www.sustainableatlanta.org), Mayor Shirley Franklin’s greening initiative for the city, is also on the company’s client roster. “A lot of folks put pretty stuff on the Web; it shows a lot of flash in the urban space, but it’s not functional,” says Nelson. “There is an alchemy to form and function; we can help clients discover what kind of content and messaging is relevant to their target demo.”

The company, Nelson says, has since broken even on operational costs and now has seven full-time employees; they are currently in talks for venture funding. “New solutions are coming online everyday,” says Nelson. “So we look to see how we can deliver for the client in a cost effective manner. We believe in the technology.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Black Enterprise magazine.

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