Can you "re-start" a business in a new incarnation if its market shifts dramatically? Here's one that's doing just that.
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Craig Malloy's videoconferencing business Lifesize was the toast of the tech world when it was acquired for $400 million in 2009. But soon afterwards the emergence of cloud technologies made it obsolete almost overnight. Now the business has re-launched as a "start-up" and is ready to take on a $10 billion industry.
Describe your business so my mum could understand it.
Lifesize connects people with audio, web and video conferencing technology to make their workplace great. We offer a cloud-based application, HD cameras and HD phones for a really easy, high quality experience.
Where did you get the idea for your business and why did you think there would be demand?
Starting my own business was always something I wanted to do and something that I discussed with colleagues at length. We saw the opportunity to create a new generation of video communication that no one else was making – a small, low-cost set-top box with a graphical user interface that we actually modeled off the Nintendo 64.
We were focused on producing high definition video communication over the public internet. This sounds very blasé today because everybody does it, but in 2003 this was cutting edge.
There were virtually no HD TVs, HD broadcasts, and very few HD cameras at all – just the very early HD camcorders.
Internet bandwidth could barely cope with video calling, so we developed a product using HD video communications over the internet at one megabit per second. I remember we spent two and a half years developing Lifesize Room.
What have been the major bumps in the road?
Lifesize’s journey began in 2003 as a provider of communications equipment for conference rooms. By 2009, we were a $160 million powerhouse; Logitech noted our success and acquired us.
Initially, it was very validating, but as time passed the world changed: collaboration services started moving to the cloud, and Lifesize was stuck in the boardroom and the corporate data centre. By 2014, we reached our “evolve-or-die” moment: ditch our legacy model, or go down with it.
Over the past 24 months, we’ve gone through the difficult and messy deconstruction of all aspects of the business and reinvented ourselves as a high-growth B2B SaaS company.
Now we’re poised to tackle the giants such as Cisco and Citrix and emerging forces like BlueJeans, for a chunk of the $9.8 billion web, audio and video conferencing market!
How Lifesize appears today
What makes running a business fulfilling?
When I reflect on my career and the aspects I am proudest of, it always comes back to my people. I find nothing more gratifying than helping people build great businesses and watching my employees grow. Recently, I had an email from someone who I hired when he was first starting out in tech.
I always knew he would do well, because he embraced the company vision and was committed to success. He recently thanked me for the opportunities that I gave him and told me that the financial stability his experience affords him enabled him to buy a house and send his children to college. That was very rewarding and humbling to hear.
What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured that point of difference?
Lifesize is a place where ideas thrive and teamwork is inherent. We are a blend of motivation, ideation and innovation. While video conferencing and collaboration offers serious advantages to businesses of all sizes – we don’t take ourselves too seriously.
We are a diverse group of people committed to one mission: connecting people to make their workplace great.
"If it’s worth pivoting a little, it’s probably worth pivoting a lot"
How do you develop your staff - how do you recruit, how do you inspire your people and what incentives do you give them to stay loyal?
Since reinventing ourselves as a ‘re-startup’ we are attracting staff who are more aggressive, who thrive on the fast pace, take more risks, and understand the value of equity. This is in stark contrast to staff who gravitated toward the perceived stability of a global conglomerate.
We believe that brilliant things happen when talented people are given the room they need to flourish.
We take time to learn what makes each individual great, what gets them out of bed every morning and we try to create opportunities that allow them to shine and be challenged everyday. Not only should our company grow, our employees should grow as well.
What are your top tips for people in business today?
Find something that you love to do and a role that is aligned with your passions. Whether that is in marketing, writing code, sales or finance – if you can find a job you are enthusiastic about, the chances are you are going to be successful.
If you are serious about reaching the c-level, you need to gain experience from the core of the business – understanding how each function interacts for overall success.
It is no use sitting on the periphery observing your company function, you must be fully invested in it. This is the place where you are going to learn the skills and insight you’ll need to lead your team to success.
If it’s worth pivoting a little, it’s probably worth pivoting a lot. In hindsight, it’s not easy to let go of the old way of doing things, but it’s better to take a risk then become yet another business casualty.