Digital smarts: How Sam Bashiry turned a $1000 second-hand router into Broadband Solutions, a $10 million internet provider

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Sam Bashiry doesn’t believe in luck. Instead, the 36-year-old Melburnian believes in making the most of opportunities that come your way.

That’s exactly what Bashiry did in 2005 when he launched his own internet service provider with partner Brad Hughes. The pair started out with a single $1000 second-hand router but a deal with a hotel in Melbourne catapulted them into the big time.

Broadband Solutions now employs a team of 22 and turns over approximately $10 million, earning the company the rank of 21 on this year’s Smart50.

I have been in the ISP industry from the very early stages. I started out in a tech support role at Eisa while I was at university. That was in the dial-up days.

I remember being very excited, going to Collins Street to the top level of the building, and seeing all these young workers in their skate gear. A gentleman asked me if I wanted a job and when I said yes, he said ‘you start tomorrow’.

I worked for Eisa for a year-and-a-half, before moving across to an ISP called Labyrinth. I later changed to Keypoint, which was later bought out by Eftel.

At Eftel I moved from tech support to sales. It was an exciting time to be in sales as the industry was moving from dial-up to DSL. It was a big change for a lot of people and I was involved in that.

After a number of years I really just wanted to do my own thing. I’m the type of person that if I want to do something, I just do it.

At the time most ISPs were focused on the residential market, not the corporate market. I thought providing a corporate service to small and medium-sized businesses would be a good niche to get into.

I founded Broadband Solutions in 2005. It was a lot of hard work initially, especially in the first 12 months. I had taken a big pay cut and I wasn’t earning a lot of money. There were a lot of challenges.

A month after starting the business I brought my business partner Brad Hughes on board. I had never met him before but he also used to work at Eftel.

I pitched the business to Brad while I was stuck in traffic one day. I told him I needed his technical expertise and that I couldn’t answer all sales and support calls myself. I made him a deal: if he moved from Penrith to Melbourne by the end of that week, I’d give him 50% of the business. He did it.

We bought a second-hand router on eBay for $1000 from someone in Broadmeadows. That’s how we started. It was a lot of hard work but a lot of fun too. We’re still passionate about what we do.

I don’t believe in luck; I believe in taking the opportunities that are presented to you. It’s what you do with those opportunities.

We were given one opportunity in our first 12 months that changed everything. I had just finished playing a game of golf and I was eating lunch at a restaurant when a phone call came through from a hotel in Melbourne that needed an internet connection by the next day for a conference they were holding.

I raced back to the office, did as much research as I could, and we managed to pull it off.

The business snowballed from there. We received phone calls from other hotels wanting us to do the same for them. We now supply internet to 90% of all hotels in Australia.

It was a game-changer. It taught me personally to look at the opportunities in different verticals and to really try to understand our clients.

We’re not a standard ISP or telco. We’re also consultants. We go see our clients and put together a solution for them to provide a roadmap. It’s a win-win solution because it means they stay with us for three or five years.

For the past 10 years I have learnt everything on the go. I didn’t have an MBA, I just knew how to sell. I had no idea about business plans and I didn’t have time to do one.

But you need to change over time and for the past three years our business has had a lot more structure. We are forecasting and planning, because you have to.

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Eloise Keating is the editor of SmartCompany. Previously, Eloise was news editor at Books+Publishing, the trade press for the Australian book industry.

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