History of Extenda
Sheldon and Cyril Schmidt moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1969, having sold a successful coin operated laundry franchise in Chicago. Yearning for warmer winters and more elbow room, the couple dragged their three teenaged boys across the country and set up shop in Los Angeles. Bit by the entrepreneurial bug, Sheldon stumbled across an ad for a device called the ‘Extend-a-Phone’ in an in-flight magazine. Having the supreme confidence of a born salesman and the talent to fix anything around the house, Sheldon talked his way into the exclusive dealership for the device in Southern California. Extenda Communications Corporation opened its doors on October 1, 1969 in Sheldon’s home office.
The Extend-a-Phone was a revolutionary device that diverted calls from one phone number to another without telephone company intervention (and surcharges). Sheldon and Cyril had always thought that the phone monopoly was more than grating – it was un-American and unfair to small businesses, the core of the country’s economy. Their anti-monopoly fervor was shared by many of that rebellious era, and the product proved popular. Sheldon and Cyril always stressed the discipline of representing only products you believe in, not just products that were popular. All three boys were drafted into assembling the devices around the kitchen table to meet demand. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and CSUN, respectively, Arnold and Steven joined the business.
Following the success of the Extend-a-Phone product, the family expanded their product range to include three-way calling devices, a novelty in the analog age of the 1970s, as well as a device that could route telephone calls to CB radios for trucking and logistics companies, and ancillary products such as headsets and early voicemail and answering machines. Few companies of the era had such wide ranging exposure to different aspects of telecommunications. They also moved to a proper office in Van Nuys and hired their first employees.
Having had repeated uncomfortable run-ins with the phone company over the years, the Schmidt family jumped at the chance to be a part of the break-up of the Bell monopoly on American telecommunications. An enthusiastic party to the original lawsuit that led to the breakup of the AT&T monopoly, after that momentous case in 1983, Extenda was able to legally sell telephone systems for the first time. Since there was no domestic telephone equipment industry outside of AT&T, the Schmidts struck up early partnerships with Israel’s Telrad and Canada’s Mitel, giving their customers a choice of phone system for the first time. Shortly thereafter, in 1985, Extenda opened an office in Palm Desert to serve a community that Sheldon and Cyril made their home. Extenda has remained a premier provider of telecommunications hardware, and later software, ever since.
Extenda has had a number of other milestones that have marked the evolution of the company and the industry. Some of these include selling and supporting the first commercially available PC-based telephone system in 1991 (Inter-Tel Axxent), a great-grandfather to the software-based systems we sell today. We installed our first internet-based telephones in 1999 (IP Phone+), began selling a purely hosted system in 2005 (7000), an open source hybrid-hosted system in 2007 (PBXtra and TrixBox) and software-only telecommunications solutions in 2011. Our own hosted solution was introduced in 2012 alongside a private hosted solution we provide in a SAS 70 Type II data center. In addition, over the years Extenda has expanded its capabilities to include computer network installation, cable installation, contact center software and reporting software, integration to VMware and data center infrastructures (IaaS), and voice and data carrier consulting and project management.
Seeking to avoid becoming a fossil like some competitors, Extenda has made great strides of late to stay ahead of the curve. Since introducing public hosted and private hosted systems in 2012, we have expanded into Unified Communications and Microsoft Lync integration. Our VMware-based virtualized telephone systems and system applications create a natural fit with the dedicated cloud servers, workstations and Infrastructure as a Service offerings we have designed. Extenda can now offer a communications system in practically any deployment configuration.
This is all to say that in this rapidly changing industry, Extenda has had to preserve the rebellious, start-up spirit of the early days in order to rcontinue to thrive serving thousands of customers. As waves of change swept over the industry, upending businesses and disrupting incumbents, Extenda’s commitment to their customers and agile spirit has enabled it to succeed where so many failed. Now a third generation family business, Sheldon and Cyril’s grandsons Russell and Andrew (proud Harvard and UCSB alums, respectively) are now actively running the day-to-day affairs of the company. Average employee tenure is over 10 years, an oddity in most companies and a real anomaly in the Information Technology space where tenures can often be measured in months. We believe this is a testament to our commitment to excellence and traditional dedication to customer service.
Nowadays, Extenda is much more than a phone system installer. We are experts in real-time communications, including voice, text, instant message, web chat, fax, online collaboration and video. Our products are designed to help customers connect with their customers and stakeholders across multiple media, typically building on the battle-tested, mature and reliable technology of today's telephone system to provide multiple communication channels and integrations to your infrastructure and critical applications.
Extenda currently has over 3,000 active accounts and has performed over 14,000 installations. Customers have included companies such as Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Alamo Rent-a-Car and National Rent-a-Car with hundreds of locations, Rockstar Energy Drinks, Pacific Clinics’ numerous locations, and local luminaries such as j2 (ticker: JCOM), Mannkind Corp (ticker: MKND), Dependable Hawaiian Express and Guthy-Renker. Our relationships with the major telecom carriers are as frosty as ever, and we are still dedicated to finding new ways to help our customers receive better service for less money. More importantly, the family values that have sustained the company through the decades and three generations of ownership continue to inspire our employees and are reflected in our long-standing relationships with customers. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope we earn the chance to serve as your telecom partner in the future.