COMPANY: WideBand Solutions
TITLE: President and Co-Founder
BACKGROUND: Growing up, Bowers' father owned a chain of retail stereo stores, where he spent his afternoons.
THE CHALLENGE: Bowers intends to get WideBand more involved in high-definition audio conferencing and VoIP-type integration, expanding the company's focus from the corporate world towards a broader SMB market.
SCN: What is, and how long have you been at, your current position?
Lonny Bowers: I'm one of the founders and the president of WideBand Solutions, and have been around since we started the company in March of 2003. My responsibilities range from overall direction to product development, as well as building the sales distribution channel, with some operational responsibilities too.
How has your background prepared you for your role?
My father owned a chain of retail stores that sold stereo and hi-fi equipment-so I've been around the industry since I was three or four years old, because that's where I would usually go after school. Then I worked in the industry starting back in high school, assembling speakers for a company called Bozak, that came up with the first DJ mixer and always had high-end speakers. After college I worked in the retail area, and after working an excessive amount of hours and seeing what the career path was going to be, I made a choice when an opportunity was presented to me to go into this industry. The opportunity was as a regional sales manager for a company who sold professional audio products.
After working in sales for a few years, I was fortunate to be able to take a leap and purchase the assets of a company that I worked with, back in '95. I basically started WideBand because I had a chance to work with some very talented engineers who were also from the industry. The potential of some of the product concepts that I had and markets that I was familiar with, plus their technical capabilities, made it right to start WideBand.
What are your short- and long-term goals?
Short-term is to gain a certain percentage of market-share on the installed audio conferencing market. We'll do that through product design-releasing products that tie in the IT world as well as the AV world. We've worked toward tying in technologies like voice-over-IP, and we've been selling solutions that have VoIP integration since about 2004.
Likewise, most of our long-term goals will involve either some type of high-definition audio conferencing or VoIP-type integration, and something for a larger audience than just the corporate world. There are a lot of opportunities in education and, ultimately, the consumer market; there's even room for solutions like ours in the automotive industry for hands-free conferencing, and opportunities in the consumer market. These are all markets that we're keeping an eye on. We've taken an approach to focus on enterprise markets right now. We've just scratched the surface of it, and we see expansion. We're seeing more and more companies standardize on our products and our solutions, so I see that growing. Eventually, the next phase would be the SMB market. We have several partners that may also bring us into these markets.
Where does product development inspiration come from?
That's something that's different about wideband. A lot of our design has been done from inside of people's conference rooms. One of our products has a function that has turned out to be a very substantial application for us, and it was a large enterprise VoIP provider that asked us to provide it. A lot of the influence and functions that our products have come from the end-users.
We poll and sit down with our customers and come up with applications and functionality in their conference rooms. You learn things that you wouldn't normally find out about. For example, we typically deal with some type of either facility or IT person, but when we sit back and observe the actual end-users, the executives or the middle management teams trying to use the systems, we gain a whole new perspective on how our products should work. There's things that we didn't think was important or that we glossed over in development, and we found that these items tend to be the most important features. A lot of things we take for granted because we're so close to the product.
Are there new initiatives we are likely to see from WideBand?
The release that's happening now with our whole line of rackmount echo cancellers, called Symphonix, is significant for us. This product line has a lot of ties to VoIP and PBX phone systems, which is not really available today in the market.
How is your focus on videoconferencing developing?
There are two types of videoconferencing: group systems, which I've worked with for the past 10 years, and then there's this new generation of videoconferencing through somebody's computer, which is web-based videoconferencing, and we are currently in both markets. As far as the more traditional room system type videoconferencing, our focus is to take those types of systems into the VoIP environment as our customers deploy them-so if they make a large investment in a VoIP phone system, they can leverage that with their videoconferencing as it relates to audio. As far as the web-based market, the other side of the videoconferencing, we're focused on allowing people to use this technology in the conference room, which has really been designed for individual use with a headset and a camera.
With the kind of explosive growth in VoIP, and even the webconferencing markets, more and more installations are being handled by different companies, and usually is installed by someone who supports the IT side of a company. The value that an integrator can bring is the ability to be able to come in and properly install the projectors, audio equipment, and do the cable management, that is required for these types of rooms, because without a skilled AV person, it usually ends up with a lot of short cuts, and there are usually cable management problems. I think there are a lot of opportunities to have a higher volume of rooms, and though maybe they have simpler functions, it's still the big opportunity for integrators right now.