A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Azaleos

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Roger Gerdes, chief executive, and Keith McCall, chief technology officer

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What it does:
Manages Microsoft-based corporate e-mail systems


What’s the point?
It’s hard enough to manage all the e-mail coming through your inbox daily. Try going behind the scenes, where companies have to deal with spam, viruses, patches, storage and reliability issues. Azaleos sells a TiVolike box that handles an e-mail system. The box is at the customer’s offices and is run remotely by Azaleos.

A Microsoft background:
Gerdes was a leader in the Microsoft Developer Network, and McCall was a director in the product group for the company’s Exchange e-mail platform.

A Whistler meeting:
The two met on a chairlift at the Whistler, B.C., ski resort in February 2004 and got to talking. They kept talking, in whiteout conditions and in the ski lodge, and eventually a plan was afoot. “I guess we’re both kind of crazy about messaging,” Gerdes said.

Another Microsoft tie:
Gerdes had previously done some work with Seattle venture firm Second Avenue Partners, which counts two Microsoft alumni in its ranks. He told the partners of his plans, and Second Avenue responded with $600,000 in funding in August 2004 and $650,000 in January. Azaleos officially launched late last month.

Northwest customers:
The company has three customers so far: retailer Zumiez, sporting-equipment maker K2 Sports and Compass Health, a nonprofit mental-illness treatment organization. Azaleos is targeting midsize companies with 250 to 5,000 e-mail users.

Expansion plans:
Azaleos started in a business park in Issaquah, but moved last month to a 10,000-square-foot facility in Redmond. The company has plans to ramp its work force to 30 or 40 people in the next year.

The bottom line:
Azaleos sells its box for $30,000. Each one can serve 2,500 users. Customers must also subscribe to Azaleos’ monitoring and maintenance service for $7 per user per month.

“E-mail should be like phone service,” Gerdes said. “It should just work. People should just have a dial tone.”

— Kim Peterson