As Q1, 2022 comes to a close, it was time to check in with Biamp's president, CEO, and co-chairman, Rashid Skaf. During our exclusive interview in December 2020, Skaf was proud to point out that he made a commitment to not layoff any of Biamp’s 600 staff during the pandemic. When Skaf led the acquisition of Biamp in November 2017, the company employed 300. Not only did he keep his promise, but the company has also grown significantly in the past two years. Today, Biamp employs 800 people worldwide. While the company has acquired several companies, most of the staffing increase has been through strategic growth. “We've grown across the board,” Skaf said. “Our European operations are now almost as big a business as our US operations used to be when we bought the company.”
With facilities in Portland, Oregon and Chester, Pennsylvania, manufacturing at Biamp is running three shifts, and a new distribution center was recently added in Portland. “We're investing a bunch,” Skaf said. “We’re making things faster, quicker, and less expensive.”
A Crazy Bet on Supply Chain
"We started buying up components and inventory, and capacity in our factory to be able to get ahead of it."
Skaf is quick to point out that, like for other manufacturers, there have been supply chain challenges, but the company has fared well. “I kind of made a crazy bet in the beginning of last year that the market was going to come back at some point, and I wanted to be ahead of the market. So we started buying up components and inventory, and capacity in our factory to be able to get ahead of it. We started building up product to put on the shelf for when the market came back. We didn't really know when, but we figured by the end of the year. And because of that, I think we've done incredibly well through this whole period,” he said.
Also like most companies, there have been staffing challenges. “We've gone through the same issues and challenges as everybody else with people kind of moving chairs. We have a view that we want people to be happy, whether they're happy with us or happy and somewhere else.” Biamp is in hiring mode. There are currently 200 roles to be filled at Biamp which includes 100 staff positions, and 100 roles for contractors. “Our hiring rate had been 60 days. We set a goal to be at 40 and we've been at 41. It takes us about 41 days to fill a role. We’re very, very fortunate.”
"I'll put them up against anyone. There's no one that's near us in this category. This is a truly fantastic product. We want to own the space. And, my goal is to kick everybody's ass,”
Biamp has approximately 4,000 solutions in its complete product lineup, and they have launched several over the past few months, but there are two that Skaf is fully expecting to be game changers. “All our products are amazing, but there are two that got us into a whole new category of solutions.” Announced in November 2021 were the new Parlé line of audio and video conferencing bars, and Vidi, a line of professional-grade conferencing cameras. Both products were designed for meeting spaces ranging from huddle rooms to small- and medium-sized conference rooms. Both will begin shipping in a month or two. “They have all of our video intelligence and our own algorithms built in. They are truly tremendous,” Skaf added.
“Not only did we integrate all of the best technologies that we've been building up, but we also added my favorite capability in these products, which is our Launch capability.” Skaf explained. “Launch allows you to auto tune the room, manage all of your settings, and do all the things that you would get with our professional services or an integration professional.” Skaf sees this as a clear differentiator. “It allows our integration channel to take the rooms that we've always been strong in, move into these smaller spaces, get them done quickly, and get them done in a quality fashion that they've never been able to do before. I'll put them up against anyone. There's no one that's near us in this category. This is a truly fantastic product,” he added.
The two products round out Biamp’s portfolio of unified communication solutions. “And these were designed by us,” Skaf explained. “These aren't designed by someone else and put into place, or OEM. I'm very, very excited about what we're gonna do here. This is our first foray into this market segment. We want to own the space. And, my goal is to kick everybody's ass,” he passionately added.
Positioning for Success
"I hope that we're gonna run out because we outsold the forecast. But we have tens of thousands that we forecasted for these units."
Developing unified communications products was already in Biamp’s roadmap before the pandemic, and so during, that need was merely highlighted. “It’s not a giant stretch to say if you've got a Devio, and you're able to handle amplification, microphones, and speakers all in one—to add a camera. And then to integrate it all into one into one solution was a natural roadmap item for us.”
Skaf noted that the price point of their new UC products is aggressive. To ensure quality and not cut corners on the technology, the manufacturing of these products will be done in China. “In our video bars, there's an amplifier, speakers, 27 mic-element microphones, the camera—and there’s internal baffling and everything else to make sure that you don't get rattles and rolls and other things that you don't want. All the electronics that we build will continue to be built in Portland. We make almost a hundred percent of our electronics in Portland.”
When the products begin to ship in one to two months, Skaf said they’ll be ready. “We don't have a complicated process or a complicated management structure here within Biamp,” he said. “We can make decisions that a lot of other companies can't or won't make. We bought all the components that we need for the coming year for these cameras and bars before we designed it.”
Just how many? “I hope that we're gonna run out because we outsold the forecast,” Skaf said. “But we have tens of thousands that we forecasted for these units. We bought it all up front because I didn't want to be in a position of having to explain why we can't have them.”
Looking to the Future
“When we go into a venue, we say, ‘Okay, what do we need to own in this venue—to have these extraordinary experiences.'"
In the twenty years I have known Skaf, he has not pre-announced products, and that hasn’t changed. But he did discuss the roadmap strategy.
“We may be in a category, but we're not in the full range of that category,” Skaf said. For instance, Biamp plans to develop cameras for more types of spaces. “There'll be a whole range of products that come from us in these kinds of categories. Directionally, this is where we want to go. And the same thing applies to the retail space and the arena space, and auditoria with what we bought with Community. We will continue to fill out what we're doing in those [environments], with those solutions.”
Since Skaf began running Biamp four years ago, his strategy was venue based. “When we go into a venue, we say, ‘Okay, what do we need to own in this venue—to have these extraordinary experiences—and how do we either build it or buy it so that we can make sure that we have the total solution in that segment?’” he concluded.