By Becky Hurley
No. of employees: 140 today. 200 by year-end
Braxton builds integrated systems that control satellites, technical acumen that’s opening more down-to-earth markets for CEO Frank Backes’ fast growing firm
Braxton Technologies – a $20 million aerospace software developer of automated satellite controls and communication systems – just made Inc. 5000’s list of the fastest growing U.S. companies for the fourth time.
No small feat. But talk to Braxton CEO Frank Backes and you’ll discover the company’s privately owned investment group is poised to expand Braxton’s reach into a “constellation” of new businesses.
Colorado’s friendly business climate and quality of life originally attracted Braxton President Kevin O’Neill to Colorado Springs from California in 2008. Today it remains strategically positioned near three key Air Force command clients.
“We’re located at the center of worldwide space operations,” says CEO Frank Backes, acknowledging that work on government satellite systems has generated as much as 80 percent of Braxton revenues so far.
Its emerging business model, crafted during weekly “company audit” meetings, resulted in creation of the Braxton Science and Technology Group. Part of the new organization’s charter is to manage the company’s growth, both organic and acquisition-based.
The group’s first acquisition took place last March when Braxton Technologies joined forces with a Boulder-based cybersecurity company. NDP focuses on aerospace “information assurance” and cyber protection for commercial data sharing clients in fields like financial services.
“Bank transactions require sharing data, but don’t want to give unlimited access. That’s where we can be a resource,” Backes explains.
A second soon-to-be-announced acquisition will strengthen the company’s deployed satellite GPS ground system security. Braxton sees a growing need for safe data transfer through space in a world subject to increased terrorism threats global hacking attacks.
Another new trademarked business category, “environmental intelligence,” focuses on repurposing GPS-powered software and data from military-commissioned satellites for use either commercially or by public safety, city and state officials. Backes explains that infrared data from space can be translated into real-time data on Earth. That enables fire-fighters to get fast-moving fire coordinates on their smartphones rather than wait for 24-hour updates – or for snowplows to be deployed exactly where they are needed most.
Braxstaff Technical is the company’s fourth new business segment. It is already up and running. Staffing is a natural outgrowth of Braxton’s experience finding security-cleared talent for its own operation. Backes predicts the new division will save its strategic defense and commercial partners both time and money.
In an era of tighter military budgets, he also believes Braxton’s product line and cost-saving methods will continue to make it a valued resource to US Air Force and US Navy customers. This year alone, its companies will launch four new satellites. And new commercial opportunities look promising.
“Eventually, we’d like to see 60 percent of our business come from satellite-to-ground functions and the other 40 percent from new categories like these,” he says.
Challenges: “Getting the word out on our new products and services, both domestically and internationally,” Backes says. “We’re already advertising in Space News and will be highly visible during this year’s National Space Symposium at The Broadmoor. The company is also aware that search engines like Google are making changes that may affect your Web access. If you don’t work with their new rules, you can disappear.”
Opportunities: “Building an array of brand new products and growing our custom “off the shelf” products that will enhance traditional software development.”
Needs: “As we shift to an R&D and acquisition focus and develop intellectual property, we’ll need support from a positive entrepreneurial environment. Fortunately Colorado has strong STEM, astrophysics and higher educational resources. We’ve got the University of Colorado, Boulder and UCCS in addition to being at the space operations center of the world.”