An idea, a beer, and $15m

By FRAZER PEARCE

A PIPE dream which started over a social beer between a couple of Rockhampton mates five years ago has turned into a multi-million dollar success.

Stephen Baxter and Bevan Slattery, both 34, this week celebrated the stock market float of the telecommunications company they founded in 2001, PIPE Networks.

At the close of business on Thursday, the company they own 64.4% of, was worth over $15 million. Not bad for a couple of old North Rockhampton High School mates who used to play tennis regularly at Sun City.

"It's a very exciting industry,'' Bevan said this week. "But it has not been plain sailing, there have been some fun times.''

After leaving school and heading off in different career directions they both ended up in the Internet industry, Bevan in Brisbane and Stephen in South Australia.

In late 2000 they ran into each other again when Stephen happened to be in Brisbane, enjoying a year off after selling SE Net, a successful In-ternet company based in Adelaide.

SE Net grew to be the largest operation in the state with over 33,000 customers and 76 staff at peak before Stephen sold it to Ozemail/UUNET over 18 months in 1999 and 2000.

"I was getting itchy feet and Bevan rang me up to see how I was going,'' Stephen said.

"I was in Brisbane and we met up for a beer.''

From that meeting the seeds for a new Internet business were planted and in 2001 they launched PIPE which is now Australia's largest Internet peer provider.

They had quickly recognised a demand from customers for higher speed services and commenced installing and developing their own fibre optic network to provide "really high speed and secure transmission of data''. The rest is history.

Their service, known as "dark fibre'', is used by major corporate customers such as ABN Amro Morgans, Flight Centre, Virgin Blue, Hitachi Data Systems and three different banks based in Queensland.

PIPE Networks is planning to extend its existing networks in Brisbane and Sydney and create a new network in Melbourne.



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