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Interview with Matt Steinfort, Envysion

Headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, Envysion (www.envysion.com) is a privately backed company founded in 2004 and originally funded in 2006. Envysion offers digital video surveillance systems with a twist—remote, Web-based management via a broadband connection. To learn more about the company and its novel software-as-a-service model, we recently spoke with Matt Steinfort, Envysion’s newly promoted chief executive officer and president. Matt spoke with Techrockies' Holden Parrish.

Techrockies: For starters, please tell our readers a little about your company and products. Specifically, what does Envysion do and how does it serve the surveillance market?

Matt Steinfort: Envysion is a provider of an innovative video-management service that enables customers to view live and recorded video from remote locations. So, if you’re a manager of 10 stores, you can view all 10 of those locations from a Web browser sitting in a Starbucks. The primary difference between what Envysion provides and what you traditionally think of in a surveillance provider is we make video easy to use and easy to manage across multiple locations. Our customers can use video for security, they can use it for loss prevention, they can use it for market research, and they can use it for training. The big bottleneck that we’ve eliminated is video traditionally has been so cumbersome to use and so limited to a site-by-site basis that other organizations couldn’t use it effectively. That’s where we come in. We help those organizations, as our tagline states, “unleash the power of video.”

Techrockies: What's the story behind the firm, and how did it start?

Matt Steinfort: Envysion existed for a number of years before I came in and before it was funded. They sold conventional, PC-based, site-by-site video solutions to a number of customers. With the bulk of the management team coming from the telecom world—Level 3 Communications, MCI and others—we had an idea that there was a better way of doing things that took full advantage of the powers of the Internet. We were used to running large-scale, Internet-based network applications, and we saw video surveillance as an opportunity to apply that technology to a market that hadn’t taken advantage of those capabilities. That’s what pointed us to this space.

Techrockies: What are the advantages of your software-as-a-service model as compared to traditional means of surveillance?

Matt Steinfort:One of the major problems with traditional surveillance solutions is they were designed to operate in a single location at a time. If you think about the challenges associated with managing a lot of geographically distributed locations, it’s really hard for management at the regional or corporate levels to understand what’s going on in those operations without physically being there. Unfortunately, you can’t physically be in all of those locations at once.

In contrast, our technology allows managers of multiple locations to more effectively understand what’s going on in their geographically distributed sites. In fact, our solution is designed around a large-scale network that can scale across tens or hundreds of sites.

As an example, say you’re the marketing person for a restaurant chain of 600 stores and you would like to know who was buying margaritas. The way you would do that today is you would go visit a couple of stores and hope to find someone buying a margarita, or you’d ask store managers to ask their bartenders who they were selling margaritas to. In whichever case, they would likely forget to write the information down or it would take you a long time to aggregate that data. But with our service, you could decide that’s something you want to know and instantly look up margarita sales across 600 sites from your office, from Starbucks—from anywhere—and jot down the demographics of whatever you were looking for and complete that marketing study in the span of an hour or two.

Another example: Say you’re in the loss prevention group and you wanted to understand why there were a certain large number of void transactions in a particular store. Maybe you think that’s a potential source of loss or the employees aren’t trained very well on the POS system. With our solution, you could look up those void transactions that you believed were unusual and validate whether they were legitimate by watching the video associated with each of those transactions. You can literally click on a transaction number and it will pull up the video and specific receipt for that transaction. It’s all software driven, but the software is smart enough to not record when there is no movement to avoid wasting disk space.

Techrockies: Is Envysion still planning to launch IP camera support this year? If so, when, and what changes will that bring for your customers?

Matt Steinfort: We are planning to launch IP camera support, although it’s not likely to be in the first half of this year. The main benefit of an IP camera is that you don’t need a specific video capture card and it’s easy to network within the site. That’s not something that our customers are clamoring for at this point, but it’s certainly a trend that the whole market is moving toward. The way analog cameras work, you put an analog camera into a DVR, the DVR converts the analog signal into a digital recording, and then that data is stored locally or on a network. With an IP camera, it’s immediately digital the moment it’s recorded.

Techrockies: Any other new products/offerings in the works?

Matt Steinfort: One of the most exciting products that we’re about to release that’s a huge differentiator for us is the ability to save video onto a network and share that video across a huge distance to a lot of people. It’s a collaboration capability. The value in this is that it will enable customers to create their own best-practice and training repositories that they can share among their employees. With traditional video, you would save a file to your PC, and if you wanted to share it, you would e-mail it around and it would be a very large file. With our service, you can save that video on the network, into our datacenter, and instantly send a link out to our employees that it’s a best practice you would like them to watch. Everyone could view it simultaneously at that point.

Techrockies: Could you talk about your venture capital backing and investors?

Matt Steinfort: We have three institutional investors, with Columbia Capital being the largest. Columbia is a $2 billion-under-management VC firm in Reston, Va., that we’ve worked with before. They’re very big in software and telecom. Our second investor is High Country Venture, which is part of the Colorado State Technology Fund that is managed by Tango. They have significant retail experience. Lastly, Dan Caruso, our chairman, is a major investor through his Bear Equity Fund.

We are certainly still seeking additional funds. The timing of that could be as early as the third quarter of this year or potentially as late as the first quarter of next year.

Techrockies: How has Envysion grown since your arrival? How many people do you employ and what are your growth goals for the near future?

Matt Steinfort: We’ve grown tremendously from a financial and human resources standpoint. When I started, in 2006, we had under a million in revenue in sales. We quadrupled that in 2007 and we’re looking to double that again in 2008. From a head-count perspective, when I started, we had five employees. Right now, we have more than 30 employees working on the business, most of whom are full-time, some of whom are contractors.

Thank you for your time, and best of luck in 2008!