Rewards stack up in Buzza’s world

FROM the serious business of medical communications to the almost frivolous concept of an electronic drink coaster, wireless communications has kept Nathan Buzza very busy.

His company, Commtech Wireless, turned over $5 million last year and its core product, BASEPage 2000, is used at 3,500 sites across the globe.

Started in 1993 by the (then) 21-year-old Mr Buzza to develop a paging system, Commtech Wireless has achieved strong sales and continued growth that has placed it among Australia’s fastest growing companies.

It was listed in the DeloitteTech Fast 50 and ranked by BRW as one of the country’s fastest growing companies in Australia in the 2002 fast 100.

The company has also won the 2002 industry and export award for emerging exporter and the 2002 CY O’Connor award for excellence in engineering and technology.

BASEPage 2000 takes information from a third party and translates that to a wireless device. That translation can be in the form of an SMS, an email, a pager, or a big LED sign.

Commtech Wireless’s products are used mainly by the health care, hospitality, emergency services, industrial and casino industries.

The company expanded into exports in 1998, with BASEPage2000 now installed in more than 3,500 sites globally facilitated through offices in Melbourne, Sydney, and Florida. The acquisition of shares in Chinese companies is planned.

Mr Buzza said while there were similar products on the market, Commtech Wireless’s system had a competitive advantage because it could cater to many different technological platforms and was competitively priced.

“Lots of products do this type of thing in specific areas, but nothing is on par with BASEPage as it brings it all into one package,” he said.

The latest Commtech product is a coaster style pager. The Patron Pager is designed for use in bistros and pubs and offers wait staff a means to contact their patrons.

When ordering at the bar, patrons receive a drinks coaster, and return to their seats.  When their meal is ready for collection, the bar person types the patron’s coaster number into the small desktop transmitter and the patron’s coaster will light up, beep or vibrate to let them know their meal is ready for collection.

The Patron Pager is water resistant and incorporates anti-theft technology.

Mr Buzza’s entrepreneurial flair was nurtured from an early age by parents who supported him in his business endeavours, despite a major health scare.

At the age of 14 Mr Buzza was diagnosed with astrocytoma, a rare brain tumour located on the motor section of the brain that required surgery.

It was during his recovery, and the post-operative months before he could return to school, that Mr Buzza began writing computer programs.

As Mr Buzza tells it, his parents bought an IBM computer in time for his release from hospital for $13,000 at 24 per cent interest, which he was to repay with the proceeds of his business.

“It taught me the value of debt at a very young age,” he said.

Called Data World, the company was established with the help of a friend and focused on making small applications and games.

Mr Buzza said he spent his lunch times setting up appointments, with his mother driving him to the meetings on Friday afternoons.

Understandably, many businesses weren’t keen on dealing with a 14-year-old, but Mr Buzza persisted and eventually signed a deal to supply Phillips in New Zealand with a game he had written.

According to Mr Buzza, Phillips released the game free with every Phillips PC sold.

“I received $11 New Zealand per copy to a maximum of $15,000, which was enough to pay back mum and dad for the PC,” he said.

After finishing high school Mr Buzza was involved in the development of the laser game Qazar and later took a position as R&D manager at Austco Communications, before starting CommTech Wireless.

Mr Buzza was this year named winner of WA Business News 40under40 1st among equals.

Nathan Buzza will be speaking at a WA Business News Success & Leadership breakfast on October 22.

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