Posted: December 01, 2008
Tech startup: Envysion Inc.
By Eric Peterson
Founded: 2004 (relaunched 2006)
*INITIAL LIGHT BULB*
Matt Steinfort worked with venture capitalist Dan Caruso after Caruso bought ICG with Columbia Capital and High Country Ventures, the state of Colorado’s investment fund. Caruso introduced Steinfort to another investment opportunity: Envysion, a traditional video surveillance company.
Describing the company at that time — 2005 — as "stalled," Steinfort recruited a co-worker from his days at Level 3 Communications, Robert Hagens, who helped conceive a software as a service (SaaS) business plan as well as features that would be impossible with traditional technology. The same investment group liked the idea and committed $3 million in seed money to the new Envysion in 2006.
"We proceeded to completely reinvent the company," Steinfort said. "At this point in time, there is no one left from the original company."
Steinfort is now president and chief executive officer of the 38-employee company. Hagens is chief technical officer, and Caruso serves as executive chairman.
*IN A NUTSHELL*
"Envysion is an innovator in Web-based video management," Steinfort said. "We’ve taken a traditional technology — video surveillance — and we’ve enabled people to use it in better ways. The problem we’re solving is not security. The problem we’re solving is profitability."
A diverse roster of retailers and restaurants — including more than 600 Chipotle locations — Envysion’s customers report an average profitability uptick of 1 percent to 2 percent after signing up for the company’s services, Steinfort said. The reason for this improved profitability varies from customer to customer, he added, but it is underpinned by Envysion’s innovative technology.
"Traditionally in the 1980s, video was confined to a VCR in the back office," Steinfort said. "They basically only used it if there was a robbery." Cut to the 1990s, when digital technology made searches much easier. Then in the current decade, the emergence of broadband and digital video recorders allowed for remote video surveillance via the Web.
But hurdles remained. Steinfort identified user-friendliness and scalability (or lack thereof) as the two top constraints, both of which he touts Envysion as solving. "We take a tremendous amount of the burden off the IT organization," he said. "They simply go to our website and log in. You instantly get access to all of the locations you are permitted to see."
Beyond security and loss prevention, Steinfort identified training, operations and marketing as other areas where video surveillance can come in handy. Regional managers "can use video to see what’s going on in locations they can’t be in on that day," he said. Users can fast-forward, zoom, search for motion, share video with other users, and set up dashboards and alerts with a slick but simple interface.
"Where it gets really cool is when you tie it into the business and its point of sale system. You want to see who’s buying cookies at 11:25 a.m.? Just click on ‘Cookies’ and here’s video of a guy buying a cookie. It allows you to really drill into specific transactions," said Steinfort.
Envysion works with local contractors to install cameras, if necessary, and can integrate into most any point-of-sale system. Subscriptions start at $160 a month for a location with four cameras, hardware included, with a possible $850 installation fee.
A group of 14 metro-area bars, the Denver-based Little Pub Co. was one of Envysion’s original customers, and President Mark Berzins is sold on the solution. "It’s immensely helpful," he said. "The real benefit for us is we don’t have to spend nearly as much time checking on video."
Estimated at about $3 billion domestically in 2007 by research firm J.P. Freeman, the video surveillance industry has been growing dramatically in recent years and is expected to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
After the initial $3 million round in 2006, Envysion closed on a $6.5 million round from the same investors in early 2007 and on another $3 million round earlier this year. Steinfort said he anticipated pursuing additional investment in 2009.
Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com
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