Many people hear the company name Bertram Wireless and assume it is a small cellphone company. They couldn’t be more wrong. Instead they are a wireless internet provider and a software development firm.
In 2003 Jimmy Bertram identified a gap in the market that surrounds him. The gap: rural internet customers with no access to high-speed internet. For example – If you live on Jay Road in Belgium Wisconsin, there is no access to cabled internet and there will not be for a LONG time, if ever. And many of us know that DSL is not a real high-speed solution. Instead of shrugging his shoulders as many did (me), Jimmy taught himself how to created his own high-speed infrastructure. He built towers and connected rural business and residents to true raw internet. Not the paired down version that you got with Time Warner.
For several years he ran Bertram Wireless as a side business from his cell phone using crowd-sourcing (or customer-sourcing) to help him improve the reliability of his service. Ultimately, the wireless business became his full-time gig.
By 2007, Bertram was increasingly aware that reoccurring credit cards payments were going to replace the monthly check based payment systems even with rural customers – and he had no way for his company to manage the move. At the same time he was realizing the limitations of his network monitoring strategy. Again, instead of ignoring the problem or trying to find a canned solution that could maybe be partially adapted to fit his needs, he built his own all-inclusive management software from the ground up. This time with some help from his new partner, Bertram Wirelesses CTO, Sajan Parikh.
By 2008 Bertram and Parikh has a software system that tracked and processed payments and it monitored network reliability and performance. Additionally, every piece of operations from tracking the inventory needed to build towers and the work tickets to contact and direct field agents to build the towers to the orders for new customer installations and missed payment reminders is integrated into this software.
Today, Bertram’s Wireless signal covers 53,000 square miles in Wisconsin and Michigan and they are THE largest independent wireless internet service provider in the United States. The software they created is being used by independent isp(s) across the US, Canada, Europe and Australia. They have 40 employees and 30+ independent contractors.
Bertram Wireless was nominated for the Business Improvement Award because they had significantly improved the aesthetic of the abandoned building that they purchased on Hwy LL in Belgium. While that is admirable, as a chamber we want to recognize that – thanks to them – the Belgium area is home to this vibrant and growing business staffed by entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, software developers, engineers and construction workers. We can clearly see that the essence a startup like this has more to do with innovation, scalability, growth, progressive thinking, identification and cooperation than technology. Not bad for a cat with a Random Lake High School Diploma.
For outstanding improvements to their business, enhancing our entire community, we present the 2017 Business Improvement Award to Bertram Wireless.