Firespring, one of the largest marketing communications firms in the Midwest, has merged its managed IT services business with Bluestem Fiber, a Lincoln-based startup that provides high-speed fiber internet service.
The resulting business is called Bluestem IT, a division of Bluestem Fiber.
The transaction also makes Firespring one of the primary shareholders in Bluestem Fiber along with founders Greg Dynek and Aaron Whyrick. Jeff Murphy, former vice president of Firespring Cloud IT will lead Bluestem IT.
“This is a merger of Bluestem Fiber with the managed IT Division at Firespring,” said Jason Wilkinson, Firespring’s Chief Technology Officer. “We are working very hard and very hand-in-hand with [Bluestem IT] to make sure this is a successful enterprise moving forward […] and to make sure the vision we all had is realized in the end.”
Bluestem IT will provide managed IT services for existing clients of Bluestem and Firespring as well as new clients throughout the Midwest.
“Companies need reliable network, storage, security and communications solutions. Bluestem is proud to deliver expanded IT solutions along with the high-speed internet connectivity necessary for operating a successful business,” said Dynek. “From our perspective, it was a natural fit.”
All employees of both companies will be retained and an estimated 5-10 new employees will be added over the next year, with an additional 10-20 being hired in the next 18-24 months.
Dynek and Whyrick created Bluestem Fiber in 2015 to introduce broadband internet connectivity via fiber at a reasonable price and make it available to entire communities as a standard necessity that will help attract and grow their populations. The company has experienced rapid growth since its inception.
“The fiber industry is one of the fastest growing in the U.S. and we’re especially bullish on growth opportunities in Nebraska,” said Jay Wilkinson, Founder and CEO of Firespring.
Bluestem Fiber has been providing gigabit broadband Internet connectivity via fiber and wireless to residential and business customers in eastern Nebraska communities.
“We looked at their business and we loved what they were doing,” said Jason Wilkinson. It seemed like hand-in-glove for us to have our IT services bundled with their ability to connect homes, businesses and communities with that connectivity.”
The merger presents an enhanced set of cloud-based services through fiber-backed speed at an affordable price. The combination of wireless and hardwired connectivity allows Bluestem IT to leverage the cloud-based services more effectively than has been possible in the past.
“The enhanced connectivity and the enhanced speed that we get by being fiber-backed, and the connectivity that we’re able to bring clients, allows us to offer them solutions where a lot of their infrastructure can be cloud-based,” said Wilkinson.
Bluestem IT can also now offer much higher-speed connectivity to people within a ten-mile radius of communities they provide service to.
“As we’ve gone into new communities, we find the connectivity needs just beyond the edge of the city limits were underserved,” said Dynek. “I think there are opportunities for both residential and business customers that can’t be reached directly by fiber to [provide] them an enhanced wireless connection [with] cloud IT services.”
For businesses, the enhanced services mean spending less money while also running more efficiently. Dynek believes that not only the tech community but all businesses stand to benefit.
“I think […] all businesses that have previously been spending high amounts on tech spending because they weren’t able to operate efficiently as they could, will also benefit,” said Dynek.
Both Jay Wilkinson and Dynek have backgrounds and history within the Silicon Prairie’s startup community. Wilkinson said they’ve focused most of their careers on the region so they’re invested in helping it succeed in their current positions.
“It’s really important to us that the work we’re doing through Bluestem IT help enable that community, and not just enable the folks that are in downtown Omaha or downtown Lincoln, but all of the peripheral areas,” said Wilkinson. “All of the entrepreneurs that are trying to do something really big now have an affordable, powerful connection with all of the services they need without having to move into a certain neighborhood or a certain city to achieve that.”
Christine McGuigan is the Associate Editor of Silicon Prairie News.