Alternative Technologies began in 1989 at Jerry Skomer’s kitchen table in the East Bay. The Ma Bell corporate monopoly had been toppled by the Justice Department in 1982, but Jerry saw that many nonprofits had a difficult time understanding the choices and making the decisions necessary to take advantage of emerging new telecommunications options. He set about to remedy that in his beloved Volvo (our first company vehicle) which he used to park blocks away from customers’ offices out of embarrassment! As the former executive director of CalPIRG, his affinity for nonprofits became — and remains — the founding ideal of Alternative.
Helping Nonprofits for more than 25 years
Today we are 35 strong, serving the best of the Bay Area’s nonprofits and progressive businesses. Jerry is still our fearless leader; he was joined in 2000 by Donald Kagan, whose expertise in computer networks allowed us to say ‘yes’ to the many customers begging for our help with IT services along with their phone systems. We “speak nonprofit”, and our desire to support the work of the Bay Area’s progressive community means that we can have an honest and meaningful technology conversation with every organization we talk to.
Alternative’s staff is a diverse group devoted to supporting nonprofits and progressive businesses. Many of us came from previous jobs at Bay Area nonprofits. Ten of us have been with Alternative for more than 10 years each! Our technology talents include:
- Training thousands of nonprofit staff on how to use their phone systems
- Helping organizations save time and money on IT
- Creating beautiful wiring closets
- Installing telephone systems, including soup-to-nuts project management
- Installing network servers and migrating IT functions to the cloud
- Providing Cloud options — and explaining which ones are appropriate (or not) for your organization
- Round-the-clock emergency support with on-call technicians
- A remote support team that can solve most issues without an on-site visit
- Keeping your organization protected with local and cloud data backups
Over the years our staff has bonded over memorable projects, like a weekend pulling cable at the Lonely Planet travel guide company, and from supporting clients like the American Cancer Society by walking through Golden Gate Park as a fundraising team for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer. Along the way we have installed thousands of phone systems, and resolved hundreds of thousands of support calls.
When our company started, the phone company was PacBell, the term “dot-com” didn’t exist, and the economic ups and downs we’ve seen since could not even have been imagined. As the technology conversation continues to evolve, we are more focused than ever on our mission: to provide the Bay Area’s nonprofits and progressive businesses with the technology they need to change the world.