At last month’s International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas, a new company founded by custom integration industry veterans George Walter, Theo Kalomirakis, and David Rodarte, presented a fully functional luxury home theater inside its 30x40 booth to demonstrate to how its turnkey designs could help enhance new home designs without slowing down builder production schedules or creating unnecessary confusion.
RAYVA’s business model is to serve as a “trusted broker,” connecting qualified home technology professionals (exclusively from the Azione Unlimited buying group) with builders seeking a low-risk, turnkey solution to fill bonus or media rooms with a tangible benefit. RAYVA alleviates integrators of the burden of marketing and promoting their brand within the builders’ community or “selling” the project, while reaching a largely untapped market. The hope is to create a no-risk business opportunity on both sides.
For its turnkey designs, RAYVA drew on the expertise of respected home theater designers, acousticians, and calibrators, Steve Haas, Dennis Erskine, Joel Silver, and John Bishop, to create four all-inclusive home theater packages, featuring high-end designs, acoustic specifications, detailed construction documents, and carefully curated AV components and accessories (also from Azione member manufacturers). RAYVA also partnered with CEDIA to ensure that its designs meet the association’s specifications for home theater room performance.
Walter, RAYVA’s president, is a 25-year veteran of the audiovisual industry who has spent the past 15 years working directly with CEDIA members and currently serves on the CEDIA board of directors. Rodarte, chief strategy officer, is known for accelerating business through market analysis, sales, organizational effectiveness, and strategic planning. He was the CEO for NuVo Technologies, a past board member of CTA TechHome, Audio Video Council, and the NAHB CEDIA Home Technology Alliance, as well as a CTA Foundation trustee. Kalomirakis, RAYVA executive director, is an internationally known designer of high-performance home theaters.
RAYVA is targeting homes priced at $500,000 or above, because that demographic of homeowner typically wants more features and better lifestyle options from their residence, according to Walter, who saw related evidence of that sentiment from other exhibitors at IBS. “All you had to do was walk to the other end of the show floor and see extremely expensive kitchen and baths on display,” he said. “Nobody could put together that investment if you didn’t have a customer base wanting it, regularly buying it, and justifying the expense.”
Walter said that because most home tech professionals only design one or two big theaters a year, turnkey designs should make a lot of sense for them. “Only a select group of integrators do more than that,” he noted. “And every time they do one, it’s a one of a kind because of the needs of the customer, the budget of the customer, and product lifecycles being as short as they are. So that’s a pretty heavy burden on that integrator. Whereas if the manufacturers could come together and make sure the interface between the AV receiver that’s doing the HDMI switching, the projector, and everything was pre-vetted and matched, they would have a lot fewer headaches.”
RAYVA’s exclusive partnership with Azione Unlimited (Walter is a board member of the group) connects more than 178 professional installation companies across the U.S. as well as pre-vetted manufacturers from the group. The agreement allows RAYVA to spend less time signing up dealers and more time developing builder clients.
The various themes offered in one of RAYVA’s pre-engineered theater designs shown at the International Builders Show.
“When you look at it from a practical point of view for the RAYVA launch, you want to have a relationship with 100 or 200 dealers in a relatively short time, partnering with an organization like Azione gives you so much more liftoff,” Walter said. “We looked at it, and 90 percent of the suppliers that we’ve already targeted as our ideal supplier package are part of Azione, and Azione has 176 dealers scattered across the country in all the major locations where we would need them. This is a great way for us to act as the middleman. It certainly gave us rapid acceleration to go to a builder and say, ‘You build in three states? Great, we’ve already got a network of integrators.’ It’s easier for us to train them. It’s easier for us to bring them up to speed.’”
RAYVA connected with more than 200 builders at IBS (10 made commitments with the group), and Walter plans on playing an active role with the National Association of Home Builders as well as working with the architect and interior design communities.
The hope, he said, is to leverage success from early projects to assure more builders that their designs were well received and didn’t aversely affect production schedules. “That’s the single biggest issue with these guys when dealing with technology,” Walter said.
And in the event that the sheetrock is already up in the bonus room, RAYVA has a contingency plan where it runs wires between the wall surface and the acoustic elements for the room. “Ideally, we’d like to have everything prewired, but in the event that we don’t, you can still do it without dramatically affecting timeframe, and those are the elements that made the builder sit up and take notice,” Walter said.
RAYVA offers a matrix of four fundamental sizes of rooms: roughly 250 square feet, 350 square feet, 450 square feet, and an open design for luxury custom builders that don’t want to be limited, and either six or eight seats, depending on the package.
Also on the matrix RAYVA has four different performance ratings, and it will guarantee that every room provides proper performance, but it can be upgraded with new technology. “We tried to minimize the options, but give the customization if you want or need it,” Walter said.
The designs from Kalomirakis will be changed four times a year, to reflect contest-winning entries from ASID members and design schools where he teaches. The designs will be voted on by RAYVA experts and introduced as part of its packages every quarter or so.
The suggested end-user price for RAYVA’s entry-level Gold package is $78,000, including all design elements (six Fortress Seating seats, all electronics, engineering drawings, lighting, lighting control in the theater, and control system). The most expensive package will be in the $350,000-400,000 range, with the core elements still pre-engineered, but RAYVA offering a selection of two or three projector manufacturers, three speaker manufacturers, and design details finishes and seats that are unique for that customer.
Typically, RAYVA manages all aspects of sale invoicing, equipment purchasing, paying suppliers, and paying the integrator. But if the integrator brings a new builder or end-user client to RAYVA, then the integrator is paid more.
Walter said that RAYVA will re-evaluate its dealer base once its first year is complete, to determine whether or not to expand beyond Azione members. For now, Walter is focused on helping his initial integrators better understand the opportunity provided by pre-engineered theaters. Those dealers that made it to IBS seemed particularly motivated after seeing one of the designs on display and finding out that it only took a day to assemble it. “Once we bring a couple projects to integrators,” Walter said, “I think they’re going to say, ‘Why would we ever design another theater on our own?’”
Jeremy J. Glowacki is editorial director of Residential Systems.