One subject I happen to hold a close fascination with these days but sadly don’t get to report on much (if ever) is tech startups. So, I couldn’t have been more thrilled to discover G2 Interactive (G2i) at CEDIA EXPO last week.
Not only does G2i represent a piece of the storied Silicon Valley tech community—not something I’ve seen represented in the AV industry at all—but one of its core objectives is to introduce an entirely new business model to the custom home automation industry.
When I first heard about G2i in the midst of my pre-show planning, my initial reaction was “Another control system manufacturer? Really?” As a younger member of this industry, I continuously struggle to comprehend why and how there are so many control system brands, and new ones seem to keep entering the market. Cortexa, iRule, and Clare Controls are a few of the newer ones that all seem to have great potential, but I just don’t understand how they can compete and how a dealer chooses which one to recommend to clients?
Let me just say that I truly hope they can compete. For me, technology by nature is a discipline that represents constant evolution and progress, and while you get this from well-solidified “legacy” brands, it’s the nature of total newcomers and the competition that they bring that truly epitomizes this progress to me.
But getting back to what really jazzed me about G2i, was not just the concept of a cloud home automation service, which is by no means new at this point, but CEO Reed Stevens seemed very passionate about creating “a different business model for this channel.”
This new business model is based primarily on recurring revenue, with a few other elements, including a focus on so-called “aspirational buyers,” or mid-market consumers that can’t afford the typical high-end solution, but really love technology. Stevens was quick to admit that this is not usually the CEDIA channel’s consumer focus, but that seems to be a big part of what sets G2i apart.
Stevens and G2i VP of sales and marketing Jeff Zemanek, until very recently with Lutron and also a former CEDIA president, chose a really different, and frankly, much more interesting, press conference style by inviting a few of their dealers to discuss what they think about the brand and the potential of its new business model for what they refer to not so much as control, but the “interactive services market.”
Interestingly, the three dealers said that they all typically work with super high-end clients. As Peter Shipp, principal at ZIO said, from the future market growth perspective, his Florida firm has come to realize that the mid-market is really where they think that growth will be going forward. “Our core custom business is not going anywhere,” Shipp said. “G2i is going to allow us to fill that [mid-] market niche.”
Shipp also commented that the G2i concept allows them to build a client for life, because they can start small and be flexible for continuous growth and longstanding client relations.
Stevens also emphasized that the concept of G2i was very much based on the recent struggles the CI industry has experienced and the need for bold, different market solutions. This really struck a chord in me the way that following other tech startups have. It’s a willingness to take a big risk in the interest of stirring up the status quo, and I admire this mentality. If this industry could foster more of this approach, I believe it would blaze a path toward a new era for home automation.
For more info about G2i, read my colleague Joseph Palenchar’s reporting on it from the show here.
If anyone saw any other interesting startups that I may have missed at CEDIA last week, please let me know in the comments section or email.