I have written extensively about eliminating unnecessary business travel and using technology such as conference calls and web conferencing to meet with colleagues in other cities or countries. LifeSize, Telenetix and Dimdim are three Deal Radar companies working to encourage the use of such collaboration technology. One of today’s covered companies, Revolabs, offers plug-and-play systems and applications for web- and tele-conferencing, but also focuses on wireless microphones designed to facilitate interaction among participants and allow for greater mobility in business and professional applications so that, for example, users can make calls from even noisy environments.
The idea was conceptualized by Marty Bodley while he was working at a multinational company, when he realized that people usually found it difficult to hear each other during conference calls. After experiencing an unexpected layoff, Bodley started Revolabs to shake up a somnolent market. The company’s wireless microphone system, designed specifically for professional collaboration applications like conferencing, recording, and transcribing, allows more microphones of varying types to be placed closer to people, meaning that every word of a discussion can be heard clearly but without the restrictions of adding more wires to the room.
During his severance period, Bodley, working out of his basement, created a new company, Maestro Inc., which became a successful OEM product developer and supplier to major tech brands. Realizing that Maestro was off to a good start, Bodley shifted his focus to his dream, Revolabs, and started that company in 2005.
Bodley developed Revolabs with a graduate school friend, JP Carney, who assisted with much of the front-end work and distribution planning. Bodley, who is CEO, and Carney, who is COO, reconnected after ten years while working on Bluetooth technology for different companies. Early on, both founders attended audio visual (AV) industry tradeshows to scout the market and realized that much of the wireless microphone technology available was over 20 years old and was just repackaged in new forms. They decided the market was ripe for entry, and Revolabs has grown from a five-person office to a company with over 40 employees. Furthermore, they now sell more than 20 products in over 40 countries. The company has raised several rounds of financing from private equity firm Finger Lakes Capital Partners out of NYC.
Revolab’s microphone systems are unique in the enterprise/professional AV industry in that they have features like small form factor, rechargeable batteries, encryption for security, four interchangeable microphone types, eight hours of talk time and digital wireless microphone systems designed specifically for use by professionals in all settings, including noisy environments. The microphones are designed for simple use, with no frequencies or channel setting, belt pack or battery replacement. Up to 16 microphones (24 in Europe or Asia) can be operated in the same room, allowing as many as 80-100 people to be heard clearly through a single system. Pricing is also on par with other microphone solutions, either wired or wireless. Prices for the wireless microphones start at $199, and the four- and eight- channel plug and play systems range from $4,200 to $7,000.
The AV market is approximately $6-8 billion, with expected growth of 20-30% per year for the next several years. The company operates in the smaller, fast-growing segments like desktop communication with applications such as Skype, GoogleTalk and web conferencing, as well as speech recognition and recording applications for podcasting and webcasting, which account for another $0.5 to $1 billion. Microphone systems are approximately 15% of this total business, which has a $1.4 billion TAM. The top target segments are teleconferencing, which is estimated at $5 billion and video conferencing, which is around $3 billion.
Revolabs first focused on North America and selected a distributor model in order to capitalize on its experience, existing rep network and extensive customer base. In the past year the company has begun setting up offices in Europe, India, Asia and Australia, with customers in over 40 countries. Although exact revenue figures are unavailable, the company confirmed that it has been profitable for over 2.5 years and has experienced over 300% growth in revenue during the past 12-month period. It has also enjoyed over 8% per month growth.
In just over two years, Revolabs has over 30,000 microphones in use around the world. Customers include Fortune 100 companies like Proctor and Gamble, Fidelity Investments and Boeing, to name a few. The microphones are used by professionals in small to medium size businesses in all industries and geographies, with a significant number of customers in education, legal, finance, medical and the government.
The company’s three- to five-year plan is for substantial growth in both product breadth and the size of addressable markets. CEO Marty made the difficult but rewarding decision to turn his being laid off into an opportunity to start his own company and says, “We are not focused on an exit at all. Our concentration is squarely on the continued growth of a successful company through innovative new products, continued channel partnering and sales channel development globally and building a powerful brand in Revolabs. If we continue to do this for several more years, we believe we’ll have significant options available to us.”
One more inspiring story of an entrepreneur who turned adversity around to achieve great success.
This segment is a part in the series : Deal Radar 2008