Scott Schwalbe, the CEO of NimbeLink, grew his company’s revenue from $1.8m in 2014 to $6.5m in 2017, a 256% increase, and now they are on track to hit $10m to $11m this year.
NimbeLink creates and deploys carrier-certified embedded modems and asset tracking solutions that reduce costs and time to market.
In this interview with Eversprint‘s Malcolm Lui, Scott shares how he and his team accelerated their high value sales by:
- Focusing on a very specific niche within the Internet of Things.
- Turning away business that isn’t a good fit for their solution.
- Competing successfully against much bigger competitors by ensuring they have right message to the right people.
: Malcolm Lui here. Welcome to Eversprint.com. Today we're speaking with Scott Schwalbe the CEO of NimbeLink, a fast growing company that creates and deploys carrier certified embedded modems and asset tracking solutions that reduce costs and time to market. We'll be discussing how he grew his company's revenue from $1.8 million in 2014 to $6.5 million in 2017, a 256% increase, and how they're on track to hit $10m to $11m dollars this year. Welcome to the call Scott.
: Thank you Malcolm.
: Scott how did you do it? How did you grow your company sales so fast?
Good people + growing large market + focus = fast growth. Identified a key area within the Internet of Things market to focus on.
: Yeah I say really it's about surrounding yourself with with good people and getting into a very large market. It's part preparation and part luck. So we're in the Internet of Things marketplace which is large it's growing fast. And we identified a key area to focus on and brought on by really good people. So it's really that the team that is driving the growth for us.
: For the growth that you've achieved in sales is coming simply from new customer acquisitions acquiring new customers or have you made it to grow your business with your existing customers.
Growth from new customers and from current customers adding new product lines and ramping up production.
: Yes so it's a combination with our certified cellular modems and embedded products. So once the customer designs that Protic into their word sewing business the business they typically will buy our solution for three to five years depending on how long their product goes in the market. So we create a real Korean model of that modem ones that are just getting designed in that design continues and so those customers will stay year over year. And then when I of new products typically WE COME UP GOING NOW AND THEN AND THEN AND THEN bringing on new customers with what new technology put the combination and then we'll talk a little bit further but we have two different product lines that will focus on mobile
: Okay. Would you say most of your growth is coming from new customer new customers. Are most of it's coming from your current customers adding more product lines.
: Yeah I'd say the growth really is a combination. But I would say that our customers are ramping up into production. So there are a lot of hard work in engaging with customers in 2000. You know 16 17 and are a lot of them are now going into production and ramping up their product. That the significant amount of the growth and new customer that I you know we might bring in and decide the sky where modem if they decide today typically we don't generate a lot of revenue from them 6 to 12 to 18 months beyond the window. So to most of our 2000 18 revenues coming from customers that at the time the product in 2016 and the
: Right. How how does your team maximize the revenue the sales from your new customers. What sort of processes you have in place to do that.
They make sure their prospects are the right fit before they invest a lot resources working with them. You have to be willing to walk away when the fit is not good. It doesn't make sense to shoehorn your product into the solution.
: Sure. So you know we have a very disciplined sales process but we've we've put into place on making sure that initially if we do before they become a customer ensuring that we're the right set. Before we spend a lot of resources looking at the school age as your the people listening to this discussion that's one of the biggest challenges. You know make sure you're not using too much and being focused on treating the right things. So we put a pretty disciplined process in place to answer all three or four key questions. The customer I have a business model that makes sense. Do they have a team and a good probability of picking a product market and are we really the best fit. You have to be able to walk away and tell customers that there might be another solution in a different way to do that and be very open about that because it doesn't make sense to try to shoehorn your product into into the solution.
: In terms of the new customer acquisition how do you go about finding them.
New customers from key distributors, telecom carriers, trade shows and webinars.
: Yes we have a couple different avenues we will use the distribution network so we have you know key to it is for our Skiver modem like we do and send the tree and arrow and get wireless and and so those key distributors bring in opportunities don't. We have relationships with most of the carriers. So when we go to market all of the telecom carriers have teams that are out there talking to all the EMS doing business to business and and they bring us some leads and then we have a distinct number of leads that we generate ourselves through trade shows and webinars and do some that's an advertisement we've got you know I would say you know bucket into those three categories that are most of our early
: Nikkei which has been your best source of leads both in terms of quantity and quality.
: Nassor quantity is coming mostly through you know higher quantity to come into the disk using channel. And I would say that the higher quality we are coming through to the carriers. They seem to qualify them a little bit better for us. The prizing when we look at it will be coming through our Web site and through our into our web play and through the Web site to the contact form that actually been very good quality that we've done a lot of work to put videos that help explain the product and try to help educate before the customers you know contact the
: Right now what can you do to scale up the number of leads that you're getting from your carriers right. So those are the highest quality ones of course who want more though so what can you do. What can your team do to scale it up and ramp it up and encourage them to send you more qualified leads.
How to scale up leads from their telecom carrier partners: make it easier for them to understand the NimbeLink solution.
: Yeah it's we thought with any partner. It's it's a matter of how much time and effort you put into the into the relationship will actually be a direct relationship to go leads new opportunities coming back. So obviously offering more training more education being open and willing to to go on sales calls or be part of them doing webinars creating specific sales collateral toward those you know with the small West partner like a carrier partner case studies all those things that make it easier for them to understand quickly that the bulling solution is the right solution. And then how to get hold of us and qualify it so. So we continue to do more and more of that work. And and and and then it comes into some you know resources have been able to have enough people to quickly respond to the lead. And one of the critical things that anybody listening to this if you have any any lead you need to follow up quickly and be responsive. And yet to follow up on the lead you don't necessarily want to follow up on the still to make sure that you treat the partner well and give them respect and that means doing you know growing up on all the
: Right. Yeah I tell my clients that I work with a lead is a terrible thing to waste right. You get someone who raises their hands say yeah like to learn more. You got to follow up with them you can't you can't drop the ball on those. So the the the Web site side of your lead gen good quality said how are they finding you. Is it just a google search and they're coming to your Web site that way or are you buying traffic to pull those people to your site.
SEO driven lead gen, look at PPC ads.
: Yes at this point have just been SEO and Google search words, we have not done any paid up to this point. We are we are looking at that as a potential avenue going forward but up to this point it's really been about the proper use of SEO and making sure we're using the key word in land and making sure we're doing that throughout the website and doing the proper you know getting recognized for when and when an engineer up for comfort is doing a search where we're linking pretty high on what we believe are the right searches.
: Right okay. Can you give me a feel for the relative number of leads are you getting from your distributors carriers versus the web if you were to break it down by percentages.
Lead distribution across distributors, carriers and their website.
: Yes. So it's it's roughly about 30 30 35 percent distribution and close to 30 from from. And again you know all the carriers with multiple carriers and then not and then probably 30 35 from the carriers. And then the other thirty's from all other which would include trade show and Web site. And I don't know the exact percentage but I would say probably in that 20 percent range.
: Right. That's pretty good. It's quite a nice balance stream of leads from different areas. Yeah. Do you how do you foresee that ratio changing over time. I mean from from the website perspective it looks like that might be the one that might be the easiest one for you to scale up right. If you can find the paid advertising campaigns that work you can just buy more of them right and send more traffic to your site.
: Yeah because the other areas with distributors and partners you have to put more effort and people time toward those are again things that are more automated. But you are correct that that is more of that advertising is the key.
: Is that in plan. Is that something that you and your team are
: About doing okay.
: It is yes
: Say five years from now. How much of your your leads. Do you think you'll be coming from your online marketing as opposed to your distributors and carriers.
Their lead source evolution
: Yeah I would you know why. Why planning on continuing to increase slowly from the other channels. I would say that we would be looking closer at 40 to 45 percent from our own abs and Web site. And all the while increasing the numbers from partners also.
: Yep. So you shared with me before we began our call that you're looking to do 10 to 11 million this year. That's a pretty big increase from the six point five million you did in 2017. Is that simply from your previous wins finally going into production and buying more of your product or is there something else that's driving that increase.
Their growth drivers in 2017: customers ramping up and a new product line.
: Yeah it's it's two things so it's it's one that customers are going in production with Sky Wire embedded in modem and then the other areas we had in 2000 17 and really just wrap it into 2018 we're going to boost new product line of asset tracking solutions that weren't available until really this year with the new LTE network that's being deployed nationwide where to point a set of assets that are replacing the old tuju or asset tracking solutions so that that product line is just ramping up which is driving to a certain part of that growth which we expected to drive to a much higher percentage going into 2018
: Right. I saw on your on a PR release that you have of how you're planning on having a live beehive at the Mobile World Congress in September and I assume that's because there is a demo right of your asset tracking solution. What's what's what's the uniqueness of that particular product an application.
Bee hive asset tracking: theft prevention, environmental monitoring
: Sure. So one of our partners as you. It's interesting when you think about asset tracking and asset management. You know it's you know it's not necessarily just moving something from point A to Point B and knowing where it is that a lot of times it's actually in this particular case it is two or three value propositions. One apparently the hives are being stolen. People can know they're remote and there's nobody around. So there's there's a large theft going on with Beihai. So you just think from that perspective and asset tracking with an accelerometer that would keep us in wake up if it's moving because the guys are not supposed to move. So if you get an alert that it's moving out that the key indicator that there's something going wrong. The other and the other aspect is the environment. You know these are very sensitive to the environment the temperature the humidity. There's multiple ways to manage you know a sound and way. And so as we continue to work with the industry a lot of different remote monitoring that can happen actually inform the beekeeper on which you should be going and paying attention to instead of just going on a routine driver check. Look at them. So in this case you know you know stolen theorises is the key simple. You know you think about that. You want the ball. Don't you start thinking about that now. You know noise and a. There's a lot of things that can be done with the environment and the surroundings of an asset.
: How big is the is the value or rather by having your solution to reduce the theft of beehives. How much are they projecting that they're going to be saving in terms of essentially losing their inventory.
The ROI of asset tracking. Each vertical has unique applications and varying ROI.
: Sure. Yes. It's a little different in each case the arrow life happens pretty quickly because you know you know and I don't have the exact numbers that each bee hive produces an x amount of dollars each year. And one if you if you lose it you'll lose it. And so you know if you lose 10 percent of those are 5 percent that's a pretty significant impact right away. The other thing is because it takes a while to get to get that back up and running and get the beehive and then the other you know I guess of the other aspects of monitoring the beehives in this case and when you think about beehives you can almost get any asset that people are driving around checking the cheapest that's got fuel and see if they're driving around and determining if you know if it's at the right temperature with the Internet of Things tracking of location goes across all of them. You can do it in America horizontal approach. We want to know where this stuff is but then the next thing you do vertical that has unique application to it. So for instance the beehives. No way. When they want to. No noise. If you think about monitoring port a potties they want to know where they're at but they also might want to know if it's over or fall and how and if you think about monitoring garbage can. They want to know when it's fall and so it's the Internet of Things space has a similarity. They all want to know whether stuff is they don't lose that specific or a why just in that we work on a cell. But you know we've got a number of different applications that with location only. And the technology today is coming to a point where you can actually get autonomous asset tracking solutions running on w batteries that will last five to 10 years in the field without having to go out and replace them.
: Right. Fantastic saves people a trip to go out there and look at it. Right. You have this that you have your device out there sending you the information can you share with the typical or it might be for a specific case study or application
Time and dollar savings from asset tracking
: Yeah. So it's you know some of them are a little softer than others. You know for instance we're working with a company that has distributed cool boxes that they send to that set of workers out there and they expect that tool to be there and when it's not there now they've got time. You know they're paying that that mechanic. You know so much per hour to be there and working. The tools are there which they expected them to be there. You know every hour is wasted and then they got to send to be able to go find it. And that's happening in this particular case. About 10 percent of the time and so there's significant dollars in it. And I don't mean to kind of dance around and not give you the exact hour a live look at that and you know calculated it. You know I haven't actually done the calculation with the customer I actually ship that they haven't shared it with me but I can tell you that antidotal you know each of these cases when they get deployed definitely have an r a y and and you can quickly do that different parameters and each business and each vertical a little bit different Kelkal that are all
: Yeah. Is there an expected range of our life from the application of your have your products.
ROI can be huge when assets being tracked are worth thousands of dollars.
: So so again your honor the product is getting away you no less and less expensive to the boy also you know you're basically spending a hundred dollars for a piece you know for the asset tracking hardware and you know any of it depend on who you are. You know you use using you know five to ten dollars a month on that particular device. So doesn't the cost is pretty low. So the return on investment baccy ill can know in some cases to get a thousand things deployed out there and you know 10 of them disappear and they're all worth five thousand dollars. That happens really quickly with what less than a 1 percent loss.
: Right. Yes I a real compelling reason to buy your products and services.
: That's what we believe and we're seeing that you know that and that that is driving to get to the growth that we're having and what we believe will be our continued to
: Right. Is there any particular niche within the things that you're focus on
Focused on cellular connectivity in the industry Internet of Things space
: Well. So if you think about you know when the Internet things a very very broad perspective. So you know some of the bigger markets like the connected home we're not doing anything within the connected home. We're not doing anything within the automotive space. We're really focused on. I would say move closer to industrial and business to business and within that cellular connectivity. So we're not doing things with connecting to Wi-Fi. And you know from the back and ethernet so our niche is really looking you know working with customers that have remote assets that don't have the ability to connect to don't have the opportunity to connect to somebody's network. And that's really our niches in cellular. And then with the asset tracking it's really a low Wide Area Network focus.
: How did you and your team decide to focus on this particular niche as opposed to everything else he just talked about that you're not planning on doing
Why they chose this niche market
: Sure. So as we know got into the business with with the Skyway our modem you know we knew that it was really for a longer tail of the mile of the market. And so customers that are building you know 10000 units or 15000 not 100000. And then over the you know from 2000 you know 13 to 16 the other team we had we've had the opportunity to see a lot of markets and that work with a lot of technology doing bring some custom design products integrating we've got see who is doing what with their product and then we had been very engaged in understanding that new network within a network that is called LTM and narrow band IoT. So we've been early adopters to that. So the combination and the engineering team and those that are out and power. And so it was a natural transition to use skill. And then we identified a large enough market to use those skills and we had the infrastructure from a distribution and sale we saw was just a natural and as we go further down we were having you know we might roll into one particular vertical and actually then that's where the while they come in we'll be selling that whole solution right now. So our solution to businesses that have figured out we are all and they know they need an app that conclusion could actually go out and sell it. So we haven't quite picked the vertical up or looking at various verticals but the
: Okay can you. Are you are you able to share what those verticals look promising promising verticals that you're looking at.
The promising verticals they are looking to enter: agriculture and construction.
: You know at a higher level you know in agriculture construction at the very highest level as we drill down into that is there some unique value proposition of looking at that tracking and the the management of utility trailers and expect especially when you're talking to your contract contractors that a smaller contract that may have you know 15 20 or 30 assets deployed and they want to know where they are they want to know where the tools are. That seems to be very interesting. No a lot of demand and a lot of requests for you know utility trailer management within construction
: Right. Yeah I could see how those things and get misplaced quite easily or stolen.
: Sure. Well know
: So in terms of your competitors your best competitors what are they doing really well and what are they doing doing really poorly.
What competitors are doing really well, and really poorly.
: Yeah. So when it comes to the sky warrior modem it's interesting our our major competitor actually the OEM our customer of engineering group is probably our biggest competitor because they have to make a decision should they design the product in our ship to make versus buy in a lot of cases. And very capable groups within a matter of what the business focus and where do they want to focus. They really need to focus on cellular and are out and intend to argue they want to create the product and the whole architecture so that that becomes competitive. And now they're doing well like about you know the competitors in both in the module and the modem and then ultimately in the asset tracking we've got to their competitors that that are doing doing a good job of getting into the marketplace. Got a couple of competitors that much larger than us and they're doing more marketing than we do them in the marketplace. So that that's helpful. You know just how that brand out there were doing better about getting our brand but that's the challenge when you're working with bigger bigger companies to compete with that. Just that brand recognition and compete with BMC.
: So how are you. How are you. What's your plan to compete against the bigger bigger companies on the branding front.
How they compete with bigger companies on a branding front.
: Yeah so we are going all the way back. We talked about a little bit ago more or more of the focused you know potentially a direct channel out word and maybe you know we're we're doing well we continued with the few the shows you're more visible in like an expert in the in the marketplace. We continue to do that. And now we where we're focused we we actually have pretty good name recognition but you know outside of that it's really got to be down the level of becoming more and more available on the Web site.
: Right. How big is your biggest competitor revenue wise.
: Yeah I was in a couple Q3 100 million in revenue
: Right. So these guys can potentially outspend you on the market different fairly easily.
: So how does a smaller company like yourself market effectively against a company that could have a budget 50 times bigger than yours.
How they market successfully against much bigger companies: get the right message to the right people.
: So again it's Pabu not only marketing but it's in all aspects of the company the focus. The biggest challenge when your smaller company with limited resources are going out of the market is focusing and making through phone calls so that we've become very very good at core of what we're zeroed in on. So when we look at the embedded OTA space we we became very good at it became known in the marketplace with the technology partners in densifying where the leads are actually coming from and creating old relationships. So a lot of times when you think about marketing and brand awareness it isn't always necessarily getting out a broad message just make sure you get the right message the right people
: Right now your industry is a is a destructive industry. How do you see your industry itself being disrupted. What are the things that are occurring that you want to be attached to right trend and avoid the negative trends.
Trends in the IoT
: Share. So if you look at just in this little power wide area network area with the cellular carriers and the license and the unlicensed spectrum there's a lot of technologies that are making noise in the in the ecosystem. You know companies like what you see Laura. Laura. Laura Whann and the fox. And then you know Wi-Fi is actually getting more prevalent in areas that pay attention to those technologies. As we continue to drive cost and they drive more network ability if all of a sudden you know one of these technologies become really prevalent across the world. They could disrupt you know what's going on within the cellular space that we're focused on. So I think it's really in that area watching and paying attention and then again it's not necessarily exclusively. You know you have to separate them in some cases using them together might be the right solution with with an edge to a gateway solution for a campus or something. So we will paid we pay a lot attention to the technologies and the biggest. The interesting thing is when you have that noise and I like now know 4G and LTE was recently released. Now are we talking about 5G and and without really understanding it all and hey should we do anything for five days coming out without really understanding of 4G is not going away. 5G is just enhancing it and replace it so. So there's this disruption technology that is coming out that it is disruptive that people think but it actually makes them pause.
: Right exactly. Now I saw from your LinkedIn profile that you're in the Navy for 20 years. How did how does your experience in the Navy help or hinder the work you're doing today.
How his Navy experience helps him business-wise
: Yeah I think it was very helpful. The Navy is just a great great place for our growing leadership skills. Core values. I was fortunate. I worked with very good people had you know good and good core training and education. And so for me the not just the disappointing the leadership aspect of the Navy. You know it really was beneficial for me as I I was I would not have been in a position now out of early out of colleagues to have the discipline to focus on being an entrepreneur and guiding a company. So now takes me a little longer Emel a little slow learners so I needed those 20 years
: Right. One last question for you for you Scott. For the listeners out there who are interested in doing business with Nimely Inc. What's the best way for them to contact your team.
: Yeah the best way to go to our Web site. W w w Mobilink dot com and then go to the contact section and fill out a contact form. And that way we get the right team member to you as fast as possible.
: Great. Thanks for joining us today Scott and sharing how you grew your company so fast.
: Well thank you. It was enjoyable nice conversation.
: We've been speaking with Scott Schwalbe, the CEO of NimbeLink, about his company's rapid growth. For interviews with other fast growing companies, or to learn how we can increase your firm's high ticket sales through automation, visit eversprint.com.