A weekly column profiling companies and personalities. This week: Straitshot Communications.

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Bellevue-based Straitshot Communications

What it does:
It is developing a new way for companies with multiple locations to transmit data securely and reliably.

Who’s behind it: Marc Coluccio and Jeff Hautala founded the company in 2003. Soon after, they hired Robert Hogan, chief executive, and David Chandler, chief operating officer.

The traditional way:
Companies with multiple locations typically use frame relay networks or virtual private networks (VPN). But because VPNs use the Internet, they can run into reliability problems. Frame relays can be expensive because operators must use a private connection to each location.

Next-generation problems:
Communications networks are becoming more critical to many companies. With the increasingly popular voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), for instance, phone calls are sent over the Internet. When a line becomes overloaded, so does the phone service. With Straitshot’s solution, the voice calls can be given priority over data transmissions. “VoIP gear is dependent on the network performing,” Hautala said. “The customer may be unhappy with the service, but it’s not the equipment; it’s the network.”

Customer example:
One Straitshot customer, R.W. Beck, a consulting and engineering firm, had been using a frame relay system for its VoIP calls. Whenever it sent a huge data packet over the network, a voice call on the network at the time would hang up. “We fixed the problem,” Chandler said.

How it works:
The company partners with AT&T, MCI, Covad and other telecom providers. That way, it can route customer traffic over the nearest lines to save money. Without Straitshot, the customer could only do that with having multiple bills and providers.

The result: A lot more bandwidth and better performance, Hautala said.

Chandler said a significant number of business leads now come through partners who sell VoIP equipment.

16 employees; 35 customers.

The company recently closed a $5 million round of capital from angel investors.

— Tricia Duryee