From Russia with love: STR expands into U.S.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2005

TORONTO--The ISC West show in April was a coming out party of sorts for STR International. STR's roadmap included expansion into the United States market, but the conference was the first time security professionals had an opportunity to kick the company's tires.
STR is based in Moscow, where it was founded in 1993. Since that time, the company's headcount has grown along with its locations. At present, 400 work for the manufacturer of electronic security equipment products in facilities in Russia, Israel and Canada.
STR got its start in the security business developing and distributing phone intercom systems. Individuals with backgrounds in the Russian military founded the company that remains privately held today.
Since then, STR has added to its product line with access control, perimeter protection, CCTV cameras and, most recently, RFID hardware.
The company's North American expansion began in 2003, when it opened an office here. The first quarter marked the company's expansion into the United States, a daunting task by some measure, but not an impossible chore according to some company executives.
"I think one of the challenges we face in the U.S. is that the security industry is an old boys club," said Eugene Gerstein, managing director at the company's office in Canada. "We need to prove to dealers that our key strength is our support."
Canada has afforded the company the ability to settle into the North American security market. But it has always been the United States that caught the company's eye. "Right now the core focus of the North American office is North American sales," Gerstein commented.
Over the next two years, the company plans to target small to medium distribution channels. Then, it will look to partner with high-end integrators throughout the country. Some of the selling points the company is building its expansion on are a corporate culture rich with engineers, customer support and a three-year warranty on all products.
Gerstein understands that America commands the largest piece of the international security pie and, "if I can have 5 percent of that I wouldn't want anything else in the world," he said. Gerstein declined to disclose STR's annual revenues.
In January, the company hired Rico Lucia as its first director of U.S. sales. Lucia previously worked for wireless video manufacturer Videocomm Technologies in an international sales role, based in Toronto.
"My focus over the last five years has been distribution of U.S. sales," said Lucia. The company has already brought on two representatives, covering the Northeast and Southeast regions.
The new people will provide sales and technical support, in addition to hosting demonstration days, according to Lucia. "It's going to add to a lot more local support," he said.