Just about thirteen years ago, with the help of angel investors, our team took a small company with a media player and FTP software out of an incubator in Orlando, FL. We immediately set out to move from being hardware-centric to software-centric, and created an enterprise product we named NEOCAST®. We got the software part done pretty darn well, and built a brand that has both recognition and reputation in the digital signage industry.
It has certainly been an interesting path that we have taken to get to today. Through both terrific highs and scary lows, the dedication of our team toward advancing the platform and supporting our customers has never wavered. That dedication ensured our survival as much as anything, even as others failed. Many companies in the digital signage space found a way to burn tens of millions of investor dollars racing toward oblivion. We were not one of those, never having taken an institutional round. The last time we raised equity was nearly 4 years ago. Working lean has been a way of life since 2004. It means that there is tremendous leverage in new deals or in the growth of existing deals. It also means that there are limited resources to take risk, add people or extend product offerings. It makes you vulnerable to shifts in customers and timelines. For us, it also meant the real risk of getting left on the sidelines as the industry enters an era of explosive growth driven by large buyers of products and services. Being undercapitalized would likely also mean being overlooked in such an environment, as scale likes scale. But how could we make sure we are part of the next era?
We have always been an advocate for the industry and a herald of the coming consolidation. We’ve postulated that the consolidation would come as a combination of attrition and M&A activity. Attrition was simply not an option. So it meant we had to find a buyer who shared our vision of what’s next, our passion for helping customers realize their vision, and an appreciation of what we had built. That is no small task in an industry where some companies are run like a fraternity house, some define a win as announcing one unprofitable deal after another, some spend money mindlessly like it grows on trees, and others just glom on to larger “partners” like barnacles hoping for a ride. As Dean Wermer famously said to Dorfman, “…that’s no way to go through life, son.”
Three years ago I gave a presentation at The DailyDOOH Investor Conference entitled Kool Aid: The Sports Drink of Roadkill. I explained that what made Wayne Gretsky great was his sense of where the puck was going, not the pack. I applauded examples of adaptation and vision. One person I singled out for praise that day was Chris Riegel of STRATACACHE. I told the audience that he had demonstrated a long-term vision for our industry, and said it wasn’t easy to compete with him, but it was easy to respect him. I privately told Chris that day that he was the only person in the business I’d willingly work for. I guess you could say we put a pin in that. This week, we announced that Real Digital Media has been acquired by STRATACACHE, where we will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary. You can read what we think is in it for our customers, our prospects, our partners and our team here.
As I have shared the news, I have received many congratulations, a few OMGs, and a couple of “are you sure you want to do that?” comments. I was grateful for the positive comments (which included every customer), and fully prepared for the negative ones. You see, as a New England Patriots fan, I understand how most people react to a team other than their own that is consistently excellent and dominant: any respect given is begrudging at best. The truth is that STRATACACHE is to digital signage what the Patriots are to the NFL. It is an organization with consistent ownership, leadership, vision, clear roles and an incredible work ethic. And, to Chris Riegel’s credit, he has not allowed the hype, competition or his own success change his approach to his work, his vision, or the job at hand.
This week, Real Digital Media was effectively traded to the Patriots. Our team is ready for what comes next, knowing that we are going to have the opportunity to realize our full potential.
I can’t wait for tomorrow.