Bootstrap Startup To Multimillion Dollar RAIN RFID Inventory Systems Leader
Carl Brown bootstrapped SimplyRFID from his basement two decades ago. Today, as SimplyRFID President and CEO, he leads a multimillion dollar, turn-key, RFID inventory systems business. Always on the move, Brown splits his time between his home in Dallas, Texas, SimplyRFID headquarters in Virginia, and the company’s support operations center in the Philippines. Brown was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about industry challenges, secrets of success, and RAIN RFID.
Q. You bootstrapped SimplyRFID and now you are celebrating its 20th anniversary. What’s the secret to your success?
I wish I knew — and it’s different for everyone.
However, what I can say is that there are turning stages in a company. They occur every 3-7 years. This is SimplyRFiD 4.0. Each stage has transformed us from a sub-million, to a million, to a multi-million-dollar company. And when you go through each change, it’s like a brand-new company and a complex new problem to solve. You need to run the company for how it will be in five years from now but do it with today’s money and figure out how keep evolving.
For me, success comes from three things: Working hard; being cost effective and doing what you love.
Q. Tell us about SimplyRFID. What does the company do?
We tell companies what their inventory is so they can sell it.
Specifically, we make the Wave App to simplify getting your RAIN RFID tagged inventory onto the Internet. It’s cost-effective and easy for every retailer.
What’s changed over the last five years is the perception that quarterly inventory is effective. Top retailers take a daily or weekly full inventory and place that inventory online where customers and staff can find it. SimplyRFiD makes the Wave app that makes scanning RFID-tagged inventory a snap. For about $3 per day, stores can synchronize their retail inventory to the web, where people can locate it.
Q. What’s the biggest challenge in the industry today? Do you have any answers for it?
Every customer comes to us with marketing literature from the RFID ‘marketplace’ and a $5,000 budget but $500,000 dreams. How do they know what’s real or how to get immediate value?
It’s a two-step challenge. First, we need to help customers understand the value of daily and weekly inventory. Then, we need to help them tag everything.
The first thing we talk everyone into is: Tag your stuff and use the Wave handheld. Tagging is still hard, but we work to establish source tagging of all their inventory.
For example, we are working on source tagging globally in eyewear. This would add a removable RAIN RFID tag to every pair of glasses. We are at about 80% penetration in this market. Walmart and Macys have also done amazing jobs publishing documentation for contract manufacturers on how to RFID tag their goods – so we are getting close to RFID being ubiquitous. A little more time and barcode-manual counts will be like DVDs.
Q. When you’re not managing the company, making sales calls or at your Philippines-based support center, what do you do for fun?
I work most days, but they are usually followed by a bottle of cheap red wine. Slightly chilled to survive in the Philippine or Dallas heat. Otherwise, messing around on TikTok at https://www.tiktok.com/@carlbrownrfid and talking about RFID and EDM (electronic dance music).