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Telecom veteran rings up a global path

When Trey Smith started out in the telecommunications industry, he had a desk with a telephone that had a bell inside it and an IBM typewriter. Now he heads a company on the leading edge of telecom integration for large companies globally.
 
Smith, 52, is CEO of OneStream Networks LLC, which provides enterprise-grade hosted and managed IP communications to mostly large, multinational business customers in more than 50 countries. OneStream provides its customers with an advanced suite of enhanced voice applications.
 
"We function particularly well with large, global enterprises that need to fully integrate all of their locations for voice, video and data purposes," Smith says. "To do this on their own would be painful and costly-and typically unachievable."
 
Though he would not give specific figures, Smith says OneStream has doubled its revenues each of the past two years. He expects that growth to accelerate through 2013. The company has 45 full-time employees, the vast majority of whom work out of its headquarters on Lee Road.
 
In June, OneStream announced Paetec Holding Corp. co-founder Jack Baron as its new chairman and former Frontier Corp. executive Debra Tellstone as its chief operating officer.
 
Smith says the addition of Baron and Tellstone, along with OneStream’s potential to position itself as a leader in voice-over-Internet protocol service, has given the company high hopes for future growth.
 
"Companies now want to make that investment in VoIP," Smith says. "The problem for a lot of companies is finding that one service provider who can tie it all together around the globe.
 
"We’re becoming that go-to service provider. Collectively we’ve got some very lofty expectations in terms of growth over the next three years."

Tech focus
Smith’s obsession with new technology was a driving force from an early age. While he was a self-described Air Force brat, moving frequently to wherever his father was stationed, one constant was his fascination with technology. He often would find himself taking apart electronic devices and putting them back together to see how they functioned.
 
Smith took his fascination with technology to college at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he majored in engineering. While there, he took a job at TwinState Telephone, a telecom company his uncle worked for, where Smith installed telephone systems for customers. After graduation, Smith became a full-time engineer there.
 
In 1986, Smith took a job at Rochester Telephone Corp. The region quickly was gaining an industry reputation as an innovative telecom hub, Smith says.
 
"It was a great time," he recalls. "Throughout that period Rochester Tel was investing heavily in people. They cultivated a lot of leadership. If you take a look at the industry at large, many of the entrepreneurs came from that era."
 
After his stint with Rochester Telephone, Smith went on to start International Communications Technologies Inc. and ICT Services Corp., which provided engineering, technical training, computer-telephone integration and telecommunications services to a global client base.
 
Smith sold both companies in 1997 and returned to Frontier Corp., formerly Rochester Telephone, motivated by the company’s plans to deploy its national optical infrastructure.
 
"There’s a saying that once you’re in telecom, you’re always in telecom," Smith says. "The industry is constantly changing. When you’re starting to get bored, things change just like that. The challenge is keeping up with the changes in technology. The company that really got it right with yesterday’s technology may not get it right with today’s technology."
 
Global Crossing Ltd. acquired Frontier in 1999. Smith, who was the senior director of strategic sales, began urging the company to invest in VoIP so it could integrate voice, data and video efficiently for customers. However, Smith says, things were moving too slowly.
 
"I could see VoIP as the wave of the future," he says. "Watching the large company move too slowly to adopt the vision and execute made me a little frustrated. That’s what drove me to OneStream. I had this desire to execute that vision before it was too late to do so."
 
Smith left Global Crossing in 2003. He became vice president of sales at Ronco Communications and Electronics Inc., a network integration company.
 
Ronco served as an incubator of sorts for OneStream, testing Smith’s VoIP integration concept. Smith says the project was a success. OneStream broadened Ronco’s data center business by providing voice and data center services.
 
"I think Trey was clearly ahead of the competition with OneStream," says Christopher Wasp, president of Ronco and a director at OneStream. "He has been one of the leaders when it comes to VoIP integration, a growing segment within the telecommunications industry. I think a lot of companies are going to struggle to catch up to what we’re doing, thanks in large part to Trey’s vision."
 
In 2006, Smith organized a team of investors, led by local entrepreneur and investor Christine Whitman, that acquired the assets of OneStream out of Ronco. Since then, OneStream has leap-frogged the small to midsize market in favor of global enterprise clients.

Smith says in many cases large enterprise clients buy global phone systems from companies such as Microsoft Corp. or Cisco Systems Inc. and need someone to consolidate them. That is where OneStream comes in.

"One of the primary growth drivers for OneStream is the ever-accelerating adoption rate of global VoIP solutions by enterprises from major suppliers," Smith says. "Those companies need a global service provider to tie all of the locations together with a sole-source voice, data and video network to achieve a return on their investment."
 
Russell DiLiberto, director of engineering and operations for OneStream, says Smith’s ability to see what lies ahead has been the key to OneStream’s success.
 
"A lot of people in the industry focus solely on the now," says DiLiberto. "That’s important. However, this industry is changing constantly and evolving at a faster rate than it ever has. Trey is able to anticipate what’s next, so when that happens we’re in a position to take advantage."
 
Looking to the future, Smith expects the adoption rate of VoIP to continue to accelerate over the next several years, creating an expanding market for global suppliers such as OneStream. The company also is watching for new technology that will enable engineers to more tightly integrate all modes of communication into one unified environment.
 
"It’s those things that excite us," Smith says. "It’s those things deep in the network, behind the scenes that create a better user experience."
 
Even with his strong commitment to technology, Smith also remains focused on relationships. He says he is hands-on with OneStream’s operations and makes himself accessible to all of his employees.
 
When he is not at work, Smith spends most of his time with his wife as the two get used to being empty nesters in Penfield. Their daughter recently started college.
 
He also continues to take things apart. His favorite hobby is restoring cars. He just finished restoring an Austin Healey and is at work on a 1967 Pontiac GTO.
 
"Yes, I’m taking things apart and putting them back together," Smith says. "I don’t think that will ever change."

Trey Smith
Position: CEO and president, OneStream Networks LLC
Age: 52
Education: B.S. in engineering, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1985
Family: Wife Sonya; daughter Jerika
Residence: Penfield
Activities: Spending time with family, restoring cars
Quote: "The customer expectations in this industry are constantly changing. There are so many vendors out there who are reinventing and trying to introduce new functionality, new features and new efficiencies. The challenge is keeping up with those changes in technology in a way where you can perform well enough to meet the customers’ needs for that new technology."

9/14/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email rbj@rbj.net.

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