Advertise Me Interviews Bill Gerba from Wirespring
Advertise Me: Before we start, we would like to thank you Bill for taking the time to participate in this interview. We know you are a busy man so we’ll hopefully keep this interview nice and short. Could you please briefly introduce yourself for those of our readers who don’t know “Who is Bill Gerba?“.
Bill Gerba: Hi Marco, thanks for the chat. Well, for those who don’t know me, I’m the CEO and co-founder of WireSpring Technologies, a digital signage software and services company in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. On top of our software development operations, we also do a lot of industry research, which we publish on the WireSpring blog (which was recently renamed the “Digital Signage Insiders” blog). It’s the oldest digital signage blog out there, started in 2004, and has about 18,000 readers
Advertise Me: When and how did the company Wirespring start? How did the company derive it’s name?
Bill Gerba: We started out in May of 2000. At the time, wireless (cellular, WiFi and Bluetooth) were the “next big thing,” so the name tried to incorporate some of that. Our original product was a system that used the Bluetooth signal from your phone to triangulate your position in a retail space and then make promotional offers or provide wayfinding services based on that. Needless to say, with the very dumb cellular devices, low penetration of Bluetooth, and high equipment costs of the time, we met some resistance with that early product. We refocused our efforts on more traditional self-service kiosk and digital signage products soon after that.
Advertise Me: We recently read in your blog that you have been busy releasing a new product. Tell us more about this.
Bill Gerba: Up until very recently, our products were designed for large enterprises people who wanted to manage networks of hundreds or thousands of digital signs or kiosk terminals. While that business has served us well over the years, and we certainly continue to see good growth there, we also wanted to be able to pursue the many, many smaller opportunities that we had to pass on because our enterprise software was too complex. Hence, we decided to take all that we had learned from our enterprise FireCast and ClientCenter products and distill them down to a new, simplified product, and so Digital Signage EasyStart was born.
Advertise Me: What are some of the features that makes this new product stand out from other digital signage products?
Bill Gerba: Well for one, we’re selling the hardware and software as an integrated solution. If you buy EasyStart from us, it comes pre-loaded on a box that we’ve certified to work in every arrangement we can think of. If you’re buying from one of our distributors or resellers with their own hardware platform, we’ve certified that to work as well. For another, we’ve simplified the user interface by making a lot of decisions behind-the-scenes for the user. They want a 4-zone layout with certain aspect ratio? Ok, we’ll figure out the dimensions for each area and tell them. Want to switch between multi-zone and full-screen content? No problem, just check one checkbox. We’ve gone through and made hundreds of tweaks to our system to make it so easy that anyone can be up and running in minutes. We also made sure that it was easy to get in touch with support right from our user interface (over the web), and we bundle in video tutorials for all of the most commonly-used features.
Advertise Me: What are your thoughts on digital signage SaaS? Is Wirespring heading towards this path?
Bill Gerba: By my reckoning, WireSpring was the very first digital signage SaaS company — our ClientCenter web portal went online in August of 2001. Today, about 2/3 of our revenues are from our SaaS products. EasyStart is actually a break from that — there are no recurring fees — because while SaaS tends to work well for mid- to large enterprises, the small guys don’t want to be burdened with another monthly charge.
Advertise Me: Now, you’ve been in the digital signage business for a while, so what challenges and setbacks have you faced thus far?
Bill Gerba: Well, we certainly overestimated the demand in the early years. It was very, *VERY* hard to sell networks back when plasma screens cost $8-9000 each. Likewise, because the SaaS model was so new at the time (it was still called “application service provider” or ASP back then), we had to jump over some hurdles to get customers to understand the benefits of the approach. Thankfully, that has gotten a lot easier.
Advertise Me: Do you have any advice for people who are planning to start a business in the digital signage industry?
Bill Gerba: Two rules cover 90% of what I have seen gone wrong:
Rule #1: If you’re going to start an ad-funded network, you had better have a team of people who are *already* experienced with selling ads.
Rule #2: Everything takes 3x as long as you think it should. Plan out your time and budget accordingly.
Advertise Me: This is our final question. What do you see as the next “BIG THING” in digital signage?
Bill Gerba: That’s a tough one. Certainly interactivity seems to be gaining a lot of ground, though I’ve still seen more cool tech demos than actual deployments using it. Gestural interaction, mobile interaction, anything that can get a viewer to engage with the content is becoming really important. People are also starting to think outside of the box — literally. While LCD screens still make up the majority of DS deployments today, more people are using 3D, unique bezels, or projection onto holographic film to create images that aren’t square in an attempt to be more eye catching. I think that as people get more used to the idea of big screens hanging around everywhere (including their living rooms) network owners are trying to step up their presences with interactivity and unique display formats to remain visible.
Advertise Me: Once again Bill, thanks for your time and we wish you all the best with the release of the new Wirespring product.
To read more interviews click here: https://www.digitalsignageblog.com/category/digital-signage-interview/
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