CEO Of The Month - Rory Cutaia, bBooth, Inc. [OTCQB: BBTH]: The Art Of The Pivot – How One CEO Navigated The Uncharted Road To Reset
After months of show pre-production meetings, 20+ new hires, a big new office, and the audition booth roll-out well under way, something we didn't anticipate happened – or not happened. Radio silence at the TV network – and despite repeated calls over several weeks, dead air. Ultimately, we learned that the show would not air. We never really learned why. We heard there was a mass firing at the network, but to this day, we never learned exactly what happened. And as they say, "that's show business."
"More art than science, the trick is to identify and re-examine your company`s assets... and envisioning how those same assets could be used in other types of businesses"
Now what. We had leases executed with shopping malls; audition booths being delivered and more in production; and a new enthusiastic team of TV show professionals on the payroll. And, oh yeah, we had one more thing – we had investors who believed in, invested in, my vision for a nationwide network of audition booths. What we didn't have was a TV show, our marketing vehicle, and the main driver of customers to our audition booths. It was early 2015 and suddenly the winter in Los Angeles felt cold.
So we decided to adopt a new, albeit less certain strategy for success. We'd deploy some of the booths in the malls, offer them as a casting vehicle for other TV shows, halt production of the remaining booths, cut staff, reduce overhead, figure out the right formula to scale the business and push forward. Using our publicly traded stock as currency, we acquired technology that we thought would enhance the value proposition of the booth business, including a mobile app to allow our customers to capture and share their bBooth audition videos.
It soon became clear that without a show to drive customers to the audition booths, we had what would only be an ordinary (not a billion-dollar value) business. I often preached to my team that it takes the same effort to build a $10 million business as it takes to build a billion-dollar business – so dream big, think big and execute big. Over the course of that next year we spent endless hours, sleepless nights, and all of our money trying to "make it work", but by then we knew that no matter what we did, the audition booth business, without the TV show attached, wasn't going to be big. It was early 2016.
My secret weapon was that I used our new interactive video technology MVP to communicate the presentation to my shareholders
Looking back, I realize that this was that moment – the moment that most – yes – most entrepreneurs face. The moment you know with virtual certainty that your grand plan is not going to work and you must decide whether to walk away and take the "L", or "pivot" and pursue an altogether different business model. Not just a different approach to the same business – but a completely different business built on the same assets. You would be surprised to learn how many big-name success stories only became so AFTER having faced this same moment. And how we, as entrepreneurs, react and respond to that moment, is what separates the successes from the failures. This becomes the single most important decision that only we can make and we are forced to make it when we are literally burnt-out, beaten down, under the greatest scrutiny, the most stress and feeling the most vulnerable. Nothing they teach you in business school prepares you for this and don't expect anyone to "mentor you" through it. Forget luck – irrelevant. The only thing that gets you through it is guts. Courage, confidence in yourself, and an innate determination that is strong enough to suppress the now burgeoning self-doubt.
For me, it was somewhat easier, having been there, in that moment, in a prior venture. My experience in that company, a telecom tech company I founded called Telx, helped me navigate the road to reset in bBooth. After a pivot in Telx, we went from a business facing obsolescence by the rapid introduction and adoption of cell phones, to a completely different business built on the same assets that we later sold for over $200 million, returning 18 times invested capital to our early investors.
More art than science, the trick is to identify and re-examine your company's assets by dispelling all notions of how they were utilized in the current business and envisioning how those same assets could be used in other types of businesses. Sounds simple. It's not. Especially given the fact that you're going through this exercise at a time when you lack the clarity of thought you might otherwise possess.
I found the pivot for bBooth in the operating system we built for our audition booths. We were using a novel approach as to how we processed and displayed the video. I envisioned how we could adapt that process into a stand-alone video communications platform, and suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless. Adopting many of the principles articulated by Eric Ries in "The Lean Startup," I knew we needed to build our Minimal Viable Product ("MVP"), but by then we spent all of our capital.
So I funded from my own pocket the development of the technology that would become the basis of our new interactive video communications and CRM platform. Once we had most of the major bugs worked out of our MVP, I scheduled a shareholder meeting in which I would explain the problems with the old business, the concept of a pivot – I even provided examples of several other high profile, super successful companies that had gone through a pivot — and then after explaining with great humility what the company then was, I described our pivot – my vision for what the company would become. My secret weapon was that I used our new interactive video technology MVP to communicate the presentation to my shareholders.
What followed made my list of Top 10 most rewarding life experiences. Within seconds after the conclusion of the presentation, I began receiving emails from shareholders asking if they could invest more money in the company, expressing their support for the new strategy and congratulating me on an outstanding presentation. From that point forward, I never looked back. We spent the next year developing and testing what we believe is the best and most effective CRM, lead gen and sales and marketing tool available in the market today and generations ahead of those offered by even the largest incumbents.
Our technology uses fully interactive video, (imagine 3-D like virtual salespersons walking-out onto your screen to explain a product or service) as the primary means of communication with prospects and customers. Unlike other video marketing technology, viewers of our interactive videos can actually respond to a call to action right in the video, while the video is playing – all without leaving the video. They can fill out an on-screen survey, download a document or brochure, purchase product, even make a phone call to sales or customer service through an on-screen phone or have their browser opened and taken to a web page – all in and through the video, and all without the viewer having to download a proprietary player.
In fact, our interactive videos can be shared via email, text, social media, even posted in online ads. Imagine what that can do to your campaigns' levels of engagement and conversion rates. Ours is truly a customer relationship management tool, not merely a salesforce management tool. Our CRM tool is designed to help sales people actually sell and close – not just report back to management on the number of calls and emails they made on any given day.
We're just now bringing the technology to market and so far the response has been quite overwhelming. We're about to begin our next capital raise to fund what we expect to be rapid growth and expansion throughout this year and beyond. And to think it was just 1 year ago, almost to the day, that we were in the moment of the pivot.
REINVENTING CRM WITH INTERACTIVE VIDEO COMMUNICATIONS
bBooth fulfills this need by offering a unique solution through its truly interactive video for CRM, Sales Lead Generation, Marketing Campaigns, and Social Engagement. "Our cloud-based, SaaS platform, bNotifi, gives clients the power to produce and distribute interactive videos that can be experienced on all mobile and desktop devices, without downloading a proprietary player," explains Cutaia. "With bNotifi, we've re-invented what a CRM lead-generation tool should be in today's video-centric social environment." The company's CRM product is built around proprietary 'Video-First' bNotifi technology, placing interactive video front and center in all customer and prospect communications.
Clients can use the bNotifi mobile or desktop app to import their contacts and select the bNotifi video message from a drop-down list. "The video shows a salesperson appearing on the recipient's screen to deliver a presentation about the company's products or services," delineates Cutaia. Users can view bNotifi interactive videos on websites, embedded in online ads, or shared via email, text, or Twitter and other social media. "The video plays right on top of whatever desktop content our targeted recipients may be interacting with at the time. A click on an onscreen link in one of our videos can bring up an interactive survey or order form right in the video — without leaving the screen." This is all done without a browser open on the recipient's device. Interested recipients can respond in real-time, right from their devices, as the bNotifi message is interactive. "Our video offers two way communication allowing interactions to take place to and from customers and prospects," he adds. Through the bNotifi app, clients can reach numerous prospects, at the push of a button.
According to Cutaia, "To deliver true innovation, we must focus not on what is possible — but on what is not yet possible." This is reflected in the upcoming plans of bBooth, which include the introduction of interactive virtual reality videos and interactive live streaming. The company is focused on achieving market leadership in various applications based on its proprietary interactive video technology.