David Bywater is chief operating officer for Vivint.
Photo credit: (Photo courtesy Vivint)
Vivint's business strategy of transitioning from being just an installer of security systems to a provider of residential technology services has paid off for the company.
Photo credit: (Image courtesy blog.vivint.com)
In February 2011, Utah-based Vivint, formerly known as APX Alarm, underwent a complete rebranding campaign to reflect the company’s transition from being a security system installer to a provider of comprehensive home technology services. Later that year, the company continued with that business strategy as it launched a solar energy panel installation business dubbed "Vivint Solar." Vivint was subsequently acquired late last year by investment firm Blackstone for more than $2 billion.
According to data released by the company, Vivint grew by more than 400 percent between 2008 and 2012 currently. Vivint currently has approximately 800,000 total customers in North America.
On Monday, Vivint Solar announced that it is increasing its presence in Southern California by expanding into Orange County and opening a Santa-Ana-based regional office that will employ 60 people. Vivint Solar, which is the second largest U.S residential solar installer, already has 200 full-time employees in the region.
Vivint has also announced a number of new additions to its senior leadership team this year including; David Bywater, chief operations officer; Todd Thompson, chief information officer (CIO); Todd Santiago, chief sales officer; and, Matthew Eyring, chief strategy and innovation officer. SIW recently caught up with Bywater to discuss the company’s impressive growth and ongoing trends in the home automation and security market.
SIW: What do you credit the strong growth Vivint has seen over the past five years to?
Bywater: For me, I’ve never seen a company with as much momentum as Vivint has. They’ve got a great culture, they’ve got an extremely motivated workforce that really buys into the Vivint vision of where we’re going and I think that’s really fueled by trying to be disruptive in a constructive way in making an industry evolve. Vivint has got an enormous focus on pure innovation or what I call primary innovation where they’re not trying to copy others, be a copycat of others but they’re actually trying to push the frontier on what we do to solve problems. That’s what’s driving the growth of this company - they’re looking forward, they’re not looking sideways, they’re not looking backwards. They’re trying to say, “what are our fundamental problems that we can solve around energy consumption, home automation, security and a bunch of other ventures that we’ve got underway right now that can disrupt industries in a constructive way and spur growth that wasn’t there previously.”
SIW: How would you characterize the growth in demand for home automation and energy management technology and how has the company positioned itself to succeed in that marketplace?
Bywater: We view ourselves as a technology company. That is our self-image. We are a technology company that is bringing technology bundled with what we believe is industry-leading customer service to the market and we’re doing it at a price point that makes a lot of sense for our customers. We don’t view ourselves as just a security company; we believe we’re a technology company bringing solutions for homes and businesses that are long overdue. And if you look at our growth today, I think the dominant share of that is around home automation, which includes security but it’s a minority of new business that we’re bringing on as security only. It really is the full suite or a large portion of the suite of services that we bring to bear.
SIW: What kind of impact has Vivint Solar had on the overall company?
Bywater: Personally, I think it’s phenomenal. I love the fact that these guys have a found a way to crack the market to bring solar technology to the masses. Solar technology was, historically, only available to the wealthy or just the environmentally-devout population that was going to pay a premium to be able to have a green solution. They were the trend setters and they helped break open a market for residential. We’re very grateful for that and I think for us to be able to take our processes, our business model, our passion for what we do, and find a way to bring that to the masses, it’s been fun. It’s just been another demonstration of what we try to do in the home automation market and I think there’s a great sense of pride across all of Vivint that we’re one of the companies that’s really pioneering a remarkable solution.
SIW: How are you bracing for the impact of new entrants into the home security and automation market such as large cable firms and telecommunications providers? How are you going to be able to differentiate yourselves from them in the long-term?
Bywater: First off, I think it’s actually good because I think they’re helping enlarge the market. They bring a greater awareness that helps enlarge the market, so we view that as an opportunity. With regards to how we’re going to do it, we’re going to do it the same way we’ve always done it which is how do you out innovate? How do you provide substantially better customer service and provide a phenomenal economic value proposition? There’s no secret sauce there. We think we’ve got, relative to our peers, a substantial advantage when it comes to our customer service and we’re continuing to find ways to improve that and enlarge that gap.
SIW: Home automation and energy management have obviously opened up new RMR streams for the security market in general, but where do you see new RMR streams coming from in the future?
Bywater: There’s the obvious stuff where you see the bundling of additional services. Whether it’s your own solution or a partner’s solution, I’m sure you’ll see more and more of that over time. I think there’s still enormous penetration to be realized as the industry finds a way to expand the full suite of existing solutions to customers as they’re aware of them and demand more features and functionality. For us, we very much expect a lot of our customers to want to cross-penetrate into solar, so that’s huge for us.