WALLINGFORD — Richard Mavrogeanes likes to tell about the time his wife Connie woke up at 4 a.m., frightened by noises coming from downstairs.
She told him to get up, grab a baseball bat and check it out.
It wasn’t a burglar.
"Two guys had come in really early and were working in our basement because they couldn’t sleep," said Mavrogeanes, 53, founder and chief technology officer of Wallingford-based VBrick Systems Inc.
He started his high-tech firm in the basement of his West Dayton Hill Road home.
VBrick makes products that allow customers to do streaming video, distance learning, live-event broadcasting, virtual field trips, face-to-face communication and security monitoring, among other uses.
And the company has compiled quite a client list — the White House, the Central Intelligence Agency, the U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of State, the Army, the Air Force, Harvard University, Morgan Stanley, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and the Connecticut Department of Information Technology, among others.
As technology has exploded, VBrick likewise has experienced brisk growth since shipping its first product in 1998.
Today, VBrick employs 90 people in 35,000 square feet of leased space at 12 Beaumont Road.
In 1998, sales totaled $18,000. By 2003, VBrick racked up $16 million in sales, said Fred Geyer, 54, chief executive officer.
"So we sold a couple more than two," he said with a laugh.
In October, the company ranked 148th nationally in the 2004 Deloitte Technology Fast 500, a ranking of the 500 fastest-growing technology companies in North America.
In April, the company won a 2004 Award for Innovation in Media from the National Association of Broadcasters.
Nurturing an idea
VBrick’s origins go back to 1964 at the World’s Fair in New York City, when Mavrogeanes first saw a newfangled thing called a videophone. He was called up out of the audience to give it a try.
Mavrogeanes was intrigued by the idea, but he took a detour or two before starting up VBrick. He helped launch another high-tech company, commuting back and forth to Minneapolis, Minn., for a time.
That business eventually sold, and Mavrogeanes did a lot of work with Microsoft products, building his career around broadband telecom.
Then a realization came to him. "Video is a utility and something everybody needs," Mavrogeanes said. "I concluded video wouldn’t take off if the world didn’t have a simple appliance to help transfer the video."
VBrick’s products help send video to televisions, computers and projectors. They allow for videoconferencing, highway surveillance and monitoring.
The military uses VBrick products for training and to allow soldiers in Iraq to watch their children graduate from high school or perform at a school play, or to broadcast the Super Bowl to GIs.
The company is currently bidding on a job to install 1,500 cameras on highways and major interstates in Florida, Geyer said. Costs for systems range from $3,000 to $500,000.
Rob Vietzke, program director of the Connecticut Education Network for the state Department of Information Technology, said the state uses VBrick products to convert video to Internet Protocol.
"We’re using it to bring video into and out of schools, colleges and campuses," he said. "The technology allows us to provide information to students in classrooms that they couldn’t get any other way."
For example, he said, college students can access foreign-language programs directly from Europe.
"There is high quality in the (video) pictures that are being transmitted," Vietzke said.
Range of technology
VBrick makes five fundamental products, each with many var