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Building Companies Through Total Immersion

Keith Burge, managing partner of Endeavor Capital Management, helps to start companies and build existing enterprises.  He was there when Fiber Optic Technologies, Inc. (FOTI) was established, and he guided it through nine years of growth, to 600 employees in 13 different cities, with 12,000 clients.  Annual revenues exceeded $65 million by 1993 and Inc. Magazine dubbed FOTI as the 86th fastest growing company in the nation.  Burge later sold it to ICG Communications (ICGX).

His strong drive was instilled at an early age.  “My father ingrained in me that you should build your own business,” he said.  “The building phase, taking something from nothing, takes real talent.  I get satisfaction from tangible results.”

Endeavor is a private equity firm, but with a different approach.  “We provide guidance to companies in our portfolio through total immersion,” he said.  He not only provides investment and advice – his clients receive the benefit of Burge’s complete attention and involvement. 

Soft-Switching Technologies Inc. is a prime example.  “Three years ago I joined the board,” Burge explained.  “The company had hit a threshold on revenues.  I went in when the economy tanked.  I stabilized the company.”  Today, the corporation is a major player in providing clean power technology and high-quality power for sensitive equipment. 
Another company that he recently helped refinance and reorganize was Silver Spring Networks, a wireless communication services provider.  Burge was happy to tell The Suit that “their technology does not leave as much of a carbon footprint on the environment. It puts its patrons in control of how much energy they consume as they have more access to data on electricity, water, and gas.”

His involvement with Silver Springs involved not only advice and guidance, but capitalization as well.  “We raised funds to properly capitalize the company and secured a replacement CEO,” said Burge on the Endeavor Capital website.  Raising funds is a large part of Endeavor’s service, mostly from institutions and foundations.  “The real challenge in a down economy is access to capital,” Burge said.

One of Endeavor’s projects involved Convergent Communications (CONV), which provides telecommunications services primarily to small- and mid-sized organizations in voice, data, video, and network integration.  As co-founder, President and COO Burge grew the company to 2000 employees in 35 cities.  One of the company’s clients is Cisco.  According the website, “The company completed its IPO led by Goldman Sachs, J. P. Morgan and Warburg Dillon Read, reaching a market capitalization of $800 million.”
Ninety percent of the firm’s clients are part of the Fortune 500, concentrated in the manufacturing sector.  His business philosophy is simple yet universal.  “It’s crucial that everyone in an organization feels empowered,” Burge said.  “You need the right people in the right environment, and it must be a thinking environment.”  That philosophy is now being applied to clients in Korea and Japan, as well as the western world.

Burge got his start at South Dakota University, where he graduated from the honors program with a Bachelor of Science. As part of the work force, Burge honed his skills with hands-on experience.  He started his career in 1978 at Digital Equipment Corporation and held positions in sales and management for nine years, and then branched out to different companies.  His reserves of energy and insight are ample; at one time, he was serving on the board of directors for eight different corporations.  “I had thirty years of experience running businesses in the trenches before I became involved with Endeavor five years ago,” he said. 

In recognition of the success of his independent venture, he was selected as Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young in 1999. Burge is a motivated self-starter with considerable financial and operational business acumen, and those traits continue to serve Endeavor’s clients well.


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