Online-Kiosks.net got off to a fast start. It immediately attracted attention in Mike's local Wisconsin business community. It received a first place finish in the Wisconsin Governor's Business Plan Contest garnering $10,000 in seed money and it separately received $10,000 from the Eau Claire Area Economic Development Corporation. That recognition was quickly followed by an investment of $250,000 (later raised to $425,000) by The Chippewa Valley Angel Investors Network.
The company changed its name in July of 2005 to StrandVision Digital Signage to better reflect its mission and has continued to innovate throughout the years. (See Milestones)
At the time that Strand introduced his digital signage offering he was bucking the trend. Normally digital signage installations required expensive onsite servers, digital media players and expensive proprietary infrastructure along with specialized off-site training and technical support that was more often than not provided by outside vendors - an expensive and complicated approach. Digital signage page updates usually took days since they were handled through contracted service agreements with design firms that had the expertise to work with proprietary digital signage coding requirements.
Strand took a different approach. StrandVision delivered low-cost, high-availability Internet-hosted digital signage services through a soon-to-be-patented Software as a Service (SaaS), now referred to as "cloud," technology. The Internet-based approach eliminated the need for complex and expensive onsite hardware. It delivered content to subscribers' televisions, including LCD and plasma displays, and computer screens. Its Web-based service made it easy for administrators with limited technology and design expertise to set up, maintain and quickly distribute weather, news, text messages, graphics, and video content to their digital signage networks over their normal Internet networks using standard equipment that they often had on hand.
"We had a new vision that took advantage of the evolving Web, the wider distribution of high-speed, low-cost, reliable Internet services and the increasing comfort level of people working with office-level applications," commented Strand. "It was a risk at the time and was portrayed as a disadvantage by some - especially the vendors that sold the high-priced, complex systems. But we were ahead of the curve and are able to deliver sophisticated, self-administered digital signage with instant updates for a few hundred dollars that traditionally cost tens of thousands."
Strand also turned pricing on its head by using a subscription service approach that eliminated high up-front costs. StrandVision's Content Management System (CMS) and servers manage customer content and provide a convenient way to monitor and update signage content.
In 2008, StrandVision introduced PC-2-TV.net, a fully digital, high-definition (HD) video and audio extender to connect a single computer to one or more television screens within a building for use with digital signage and many other applications. StrandVision is the only provider of this HD video extender in the world. PC-2-TV.net has since been implemented in hundreds of StrandVision Digital Signage installations where customers want to keep the digital media player secure and send digital signage over long distances, most of which have multiple screens within the building.
The market responded by endorsing Strand's approach. Over the last ten years, StrandVision has delivered a record of success. It has experienced average annual growth of 42 percent and maintains a 99 percent customer retention rate. It also is A+ rated by the Better Business Bureau. Customers range from industrial distributors and manufacturers to hotels, schools, colleges, and churches across North America and around the world. Employee communications had emerged as a primary use for StrandVision Digital Signage networks for companies of every size.
At StrandVision, the staff is entirely focused on personalized customer service through phone, live chat and Web support, as well as frequent introductory and advanced user webinars and one-on-one interactive training sessions. The administrator portal (CMS) is constantly updated to add features and make it easier to use.
StrandVision is so confident in its support that it routinely shares its digital signage knowledge with customer prospects and even helps configure entire digital signage networks, all at no cost - even if they choose to select another digital signage vendor.
StrandVision's free digital signage Test Drive, introduced at the company's 5-year anniversary, has been the gateway for many customers to help them become familiar with StrandVision and begin using the service with no obligation or even contact information shared.
"We believe that we are the most customer-responsive digital signage company," said Strand. "We repeatedly hear that we're always available to them, and we don't charge extra for it. This close relationship with our customers pays big dividends for everybody - 100 percent of the new product features that we've introduced over the years have been in direct response to customer requests. Most of the features that we've added have been included in the subscriptions for free."
The industry has noticed. StrandVision has a growing network of resellers and system integrator affiliates and has had hundreds of articles covering its products and achievements. In July of 2012 it surpassed serving 5,000,000 digital signage content pages and only one year later it achieved a total of 6,000,000 pages served.
"It's been an exciting 10 years," said Strand. "Despite an historic recession we managed to continue to grow and help our customers promote their products and communicate with their employees. We're excited about the prospects for the next 10 years and look forward to meeting many new customers and building lasting relationships."