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Axsys update

Thursday, April 23, 2009
Just wanted to give people a quick update on Axsys, which is potentially for sale. Since I wrote the initial story, the stock price has remained right in the $40 range, where it jumped on news of the potential sale. However, that's still well below December's high near $75. The price hasn't really gone up this week, either, despite strong Q1 numbers (warning: that's a pdf): Period comparisons vs. the first quarter of 2008. • Sales increased 18% to $66.6 million; • Gross margin was 33.1% compared to 34.0%; • Operating margin improved to 16.4% from 14.2%; • Net income increased 37% to $7.0 million; • Backlog increased 3% year over year to $162.1 million. A 10.5 percent net margin's not bad at all. But it would still take about $500 million (guessing that $45 a share would do it) to acquire a $275 million (+/-) manufacturer. Not totally a bargain.

SentryNet to hold annual dealer conference

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Greenville, Miss.-based monitoring company, SentryNet, is holding it's annual dealer conference next week. I had a chance to message back and forth with SentryNet VP, Operations Michael J. Joseph recenlty about ISC West and the upcoming dealer conference. While the SentryNet dealer conference may not be as big as ISC West, it certainly sounds like a fun and informative couple of days. Best wishes to all attendees. I look forward to chatting with Mike again after the dealer conference is over and finding out how it went.

Shake-up in the retail world

Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The nation's two big industry associations serving the retail community have decided to merge. It's kind of a big deal since both run loss-prevention conferences and put out data that influence how the security industry interacts with what is a large (if recently shrinking) business opportunity. I don't have a link, but here's the release:
RILA and NRF Agree to Merge New Merged Association to Provide a Single Retail Voice in Washington, DC WASHINGTON, DC -- The National Retail Federation (NRF) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) today announced that the executive committees of both associations have unanimously agreed in principle to a merger that will create a single trade association representing retail interests in the nation’s capital. The new organization will provide enhanced value to both RILA and NRF’s members and help to ensure that the retail industry speaks with a one voice to advance the industry and its more than 15 million workers.
The cynic in me says that retailers are getting hammered right now and no one's paying their dues, and this is a way to keep both organizations afloat. But maybe it's because they want to provide enhanced value to their members. That's totally possible.
“This is an historic time for our industry. The challenges and opportunities before our members are unprecedented. Now is the right time to bring these associations together,” said RILA Chairman, Robert A. Niblock, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Lowe's Companies, Inc. and NRF Chairman Myron E. (Mike) Ullman, III, Chairman and CEO of J.C. Penney Company, Inc. in a joint statement.
Gosh I hate it when people use "an" in front of "historic." That goes back to when people pronounced the word "istoric" and it made sense. But now pretty much everyone pronounces the "h," yes? Unless you live in Boston, maybe, where they pronounce "huge" as "yuge." But I digress.
According to Niblock and Ullman, in addition to enhancing member value, the new (and as yet unnamed) association will accrue substantial benefits to all members collectively, small and large, including: • A unified and stronger voice on policy, communications, and public affairs issues in Washington, DC • A host of exciting member events and conferences open to the combined membership of NRF and RILA and, including NRF’s “Big Show” and RILA’s annual Logistics Conference scheduled for January and February, 2010 • Focused educational offerings and operational services for independent retailers • A single point of integration and dialogue with state retail associations and business groups in state capitals across the United States; and • A fully-integrated staff.
Potential names for the organization: The National Retail Industry Leaders Foundation Association; The National We Wish the Internet Had Never Happened Association; The Organization that Used to Include Book Stores and Records Stores But there Aren't Any More of Them; The Soon there Will Just Be Wal-Mart Association; The Okay, Maybe there Will Also Be Target and JC Penney or Something Federation Association Foundation. It's hard to pick just one, really.
Completion of the merger requires that both NRF and RILA submit to a thorough due diligence process. The details of the merger are being developed by representatives from RILA and NRF. Both associations’ boards of directors must recommend the merger, and both memberships must approve it. Both RILA and NRF expect the process to be completed by this summer.
In all seriousness, this new group will represent a powerful lobbying body and a group that could definitely sway the security industry's direction. They've already been involved in analytics standards development (not sure how that turned out, really) and I think you can expect more attempts to make the security industry more aware of retailers' pain points.

GE Capital sells its interest in SAFE Security

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
GE Capital announced April 20 that it had sold its entire stake in SAFE Security, one of the larger full service security alarm companies, with accounts in 44 states. SAFE Security is involved in purchasing, financing and servicing residential and commercial security alarm monitoring contracts, as well as installing alarm systems. SAFE Security has recently streamlined its operation with initiatives such as software upgrades, and consolidation of monitoring stations. Bank of America provided a $25 million senior credit facility as part of the transaction between GE Capital and private equity firm Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners, LP. Rustic Canyon/Fontis Partners has also invested an undisclosed amount of new equity capital SAFE Security, and while the firm has assumed a majority ownership position, SAFE Security's founder and CEO Paul Sargenti will remain in the picture with a significant ownership interest.

A new way to sell analytics

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
I've mentioned Cernium's Archerfish in passing, but now it's ready for sale. What is it? Well, it's basically video analytics for the home. It takes the whole concept of monitoring latch-key kids and pets from afar to another level entirely by using video analytics to trigger event notices, instead of motion detectors or kids punching in a code at the key pad. Or, more specifically:
Using a combination of video cameras, an Archerfish SmartBox (an intelligent device with advanced video technology) and the Archerfish SmartPortal (a custom web portal), Archerfish 'watches' one or more locations for specific situations, providing peace of mind and helping manage unexpected situations. Examples include confirming children arriving home from school; learning about an unwelcome intruder; knowing an elderly parent living alone is up and about; and ensuring critical business events such as deliveries and store openings happen.
Okey-doke, sounds good. Where do security installers sign up? Well, Cernium's announcement first talks about using A/V distributors to take this thing to market:
Beginning this month, Archerfish will be offered in the Mid-Atlantic, Florida, Arizona and Nevada markets through Audio Video Warehouse, Bay Distributing and Shifting Sands Stereo Distributing. These organizations comprise the initial phase of a program that will encompass the United States and the United Kingdom later this year.
Wait a sec. That's not exactly ADI, Tri-Ed, and Anixter, is it? Here's the AV Warehouse line card (Cernium hasn't made it yet, but we'll assume the web guys just haven't been alerted of the big news yet). Clearly, this isn't your standard security channel Cernium's developing here. Certainly, a great many security installers also work in the A/V channel, but video analytics have never been pitched to that side of the house in my experience. By my reckoning, video analytics for the house is a pretty forward-thinking concept. Here's an interview with Craig Chambers about it: Note he says it will be "primarily sold through Telcos" eventually, but that they're going through high-end specialty retail and high-end residential installers to start. (Also note that Nicole's going to figure out who's been pooping on her lawn.) Security guys, this may not be for you. But it could be, I think. I'm not sure people are going to want to/be able to self-install this, but maybe I'm wrong. So if you succeed early with the product, and this concept, maybe that telcos idea will never come about.

Venture capital update

Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Coming on the heels of news that venture capitalists have bought out GE Capital's stake in SAFE Security (we'll have more on that soon), I wanted to give security-industry readers a little more perspective on the venture capital landscape. I'm stealing this from the excellent Dan Primack at PeHUB, whom I've referenced before. This time, however, the information comes from the PeHUB wire, which I can't seem to link to, so I'll just quote the good stuff. Basically, nobody was doling out money in Q1:
Q1 VC Numbers: Oh, The Horror ... Venture capitalists disbursed just $3 billion into 549 companies last quarter, according to data released over the weekend by the MoneyTree three (PwC, NVCA & Thomson Reuters). That’s a 47% dollar drop from the $5.7 billion disbursed in Q4, and a 61% drop from the $7.74 billion disbursed in Q1 2008. The number of companies funded didn’t decrease quite as dramatically — suggesting that lowered valuations partially helped drive down the dollar numbers — but still were off 36% and 43.8%, respectively.
This just underscores why I find funding announcements in security so interesting right now. These VCs are being careful with their money, and it shows a bit of faith in a company or technology when they dole out cash to the likes of Aoptix or Orsus or Red Shift or
Every major industry sector experienced double-digit declines, while the percentage of first-time fundings stayed constant at around 20% (although the value of such deals fell by 48%).
It's a testament to just how small the security industry remains that the National Venture Capital Association doesn't even break security out as an industry sector. It's smashed somewhere into these categories: Biotechnology Business Products and Services Computers and Peripherals Consumer Products and Services Electronics/Instrumentation Financial Services Healthcare Services Industrial/Energy IT Services Media and Entertainment Medical Devices and Equipment Networking and Equipment Other Retailing/Distribution Semiconductors Software Telecommunications Is security an "other"?
The quarter’s busiest firm was Oak Investment Partners, which made 12 investments. Other (quasi) busybodies included SV Life Sciences (11), Draper Fisher Jurvetson (11), Venrock (11), Highland Capital Partners (10), Menlo Ventures (10) and Polaris Venture Partners (10).
Interesting that some of the "busy" firms have security ties. Oak was a CoVi investor (not sure how that worked out for them). Polaris and Highland were in on the last Imprivata round. Menlo was in on Intransa and helped Bioscrypt with the A4 deal. Seems like that's good news for the industry. They guys doing deals are familiar with the security biz. But that's really a layman's analysis on my part.

SIAC launces new website

Monday, April 20, 2009
The Security Industry Alarm Coalition announced April 14 the launch of a new, easier to navigate website. According to a SIAC press release, the new site "allows for easier navigation and information gathering." According to SIAC executive director, Stan Martin the site is the culmination of a year's hard work. "We've been working on this update for close to a year now, to make sure we included a wide set of tools to help all the groups we work closely with. Information, technology and effective alarm reduction techniques are constantly evolving, and we wanted our web page to stay current with these changes." The new site features information on important topics like verified response, alarm systems standards, how to create an alarm user awareness school for your municipality, and a model ordinance for both intrusion and fire as approved by the National Burglar & Fire Alarm Association and the False Alarm Reduction Association. The new site is also more accessible to alarm system owners since "succesful alarm dispatch management begins with the end-user." End-user focused learning tools include "5 Quick Tips for Proper Alarm Use," "Be Aware of Unlicensed Door to Door Sales People," and "How to Sell a House with an Alarm System."

Must be the mustache

Sunday, April 19, 2009
News out of Stanley camp is that they're combining their Canadian and U.S. operations and giving CSS (Convergent Security Solutions) COO Tony Byerly a promotion and calling him president of the whole affair. No link, but here's the release:
Naperville, IL – April 17, 2009 – Tony Byerly, Chief Operating Officer of Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, Inc. (Stanley CSS - U.S.) has been named President of CSS-North America and will assume responsibilities as the leader of the new combined division of Stanley CSS-U.S. and Stanley CSS-Canada.
Truthfully, I didn't realize there was a CSS-Canada. Guess I should pay attention to these things.
“Stanley Convergent Security Solutions is combining two of our divisions (United States and Canada) into one, CSS-North America. We believe this new alignment led by Tony Byerly, will help us create world-class service offerings in the North American markets we serve through the shared knowledge and best practices that come from the combination of both divisions,” states Brett Bontrager, President, Stanley Convergent Security Solutions. “We are excited about this strategic alignment as it will benefit and support the needs of our customers and associates in our North American market.”
More title creep here. President Tony Byerly now works for president Brett Bontrager. Couldn't Byerly still be COO? Or be VP? No, certainly not VP - they give that title out with your MBA now, I think. So, president it is for Tony.
Byerly contributes 20 years of leadership experience to Stanley-CSS in the security market. His executive career has involved working for both private and public corporations, including Fortune 50 companies such as Ameritech, SBC Global Communications, Cambridge Protection Industries, Honeywell Security Monitoring (HSM) and ADT/Tyco International. Most recently, Byerly was retained by the Stanley Works when HSM was acquired in 2007 where he served as Senior Vice President of Sales, Marketing and National Accounts, and was subsequently promoted to Chief Operating Officer in January 2008. During his tenure at HSM his sales and marketing prowess favorably positioned the company as an industry leader in three short years.
He was "retained." As in, "we decided not to fire him when we bought HSM"?
Byerly holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Science and Business, attending Eureka College as a Ronald W. Reagan Scholar. He lives in Naperville, Illinois with his wife Kari and their three children Daisy, JD and Jonathan. He offices out of the Stanley Convergent Security Solutions, Inc. Field Headquarters in Naperville, IL.
Okay, I admit it. I posted this entire release just so I could wonder aloud about the use of "office" as a verb. Is that common practice and I just missed it? I'll admit I was caught behind the times with "effort" as a verb. I heard some guy on sports talk radio this morning utter the sentence "we're efforting Stephen A. Smith right now," meaning that they're trying to get the loud mouth basketball commenter who just got canned (or maybe "not retained") by ESPN on the phone. When the sports guys have bought into the new use of the word, I'm just a curmudgeon for disliking it, I suppose. I don't want to be all Andy Rooney here, but does the English language not have enough words? We've got way more than anyone else, so I don't see why we've got to make up new ways to use words we've already got. Plus, it's not like it's more Twitterifically efficient or anything: "He offices out of"=17 characters; "He is based at"=14 characters. Maybe he didn't want to be "based" (because it sounded too base). I'm actually all for the ever-evolving nature of the English language, it's just that I sometimes can't figure out why it evolves the way it does. Regardless, I attribute Byerly's ongoing success at least partly to his mustache. At the next ISC West, I think there should be some kind of Best Security Mustache competition, whereby you could stop at the SSN booth, have a photo taken of you rocking your mustache, and then we'll publish the winner in the May paper, and that winner will get a lifetime supply of Firehouse Mustache Wax. (Publisher Tim: Think we can spring for that? I can't imagine you go through more than a tin or two a year. We can put it in the operating budget - no need for it to be a capital item.) Byerly would be among the favorites, along with Honeywell's Joe Sausa.

Australian prison logs lots of false alarms

Friday, April 17, 2009
Hey, I suppose if you're going to be wasting tax payer money, and the valuable time and resources of first responders, it might as well be a police run institution doing the wasting, right? I came across this story this morning at, an ABC News affiliate for Australia, and had a chuckle. The Alexander Maconochie Centre, a new prison located in the town of Hume in the Australian Capital Territory, has been having some problems with it's alarm systems, both security and fire. The story states the security system problems were ironed out before the first batch of inmates were moved in September 2008 (good thing, I would say... don't you want a pretty airtight security system at your local prison?), but the fire alarm system continues to cause problems, apparently activating and necessitating dispatch 33 times since the prison opened. According to corrections minister John Hargreaves "some of the false alarms were triggered by inmates smoking, which is banned in the prison." Huh? First of all, does cigarette smoke normally set off fire alarms? Secondly, if they're not supposed to be smoking in prison, why are they smoking in prison? Aren't the inmates pretty much under lock and key? Isn't pretty much every single one of their actions monitored? I hope so. I love this particular excerpt... It seems to scream out "we need someone to lay down the rules":
Vince McDevitt from the CPSU [Community and Public Sector Union] says the union is in talks with jail management to allow inmates and staff to smoke in designated outdoor areas. Mr McDevitt says it is also important for jail officers to be able to permit inmates to smoke inside the jail, in certain situations. "For instance a prisoner who became agitated or potentially had some mental issues, if they start for example, to head butt the cell bars like a rhinoceros screaming for a cigarette, then the superindentant, it's important that they have a discretionary power to allow an individual to smoke," he said.
Again, I say Huh? Why? That's like when my son doesn't want to eat his peas, but does want ice cream. I tell him "no, that's not allowed," and he throws a tantrum. So it's important that I give him the ice cream so he'll stop his tantrum? That makes absolutely no parenting sense at all. How about this for a different tack: "No, you can't smoke. You're in prison and have lost that right." I guess I just feel that if prisoners sneaking smokes is costing money through false alarm dispatch, they should be stopped from smoking. I mean home and business owners the world over get severe financial penalties at far fewer than 33 false alarms. Just my opinion. I welcome yours.

Private equity still likes security

Friday, April 17, 2009
Yet another PE firm has set up an acquisition company to enter the homeland security marketplace. It's not exactly going to be your standard security integration firm, but I'm sure it will dabble in cameras and access control from time to time.
GRCR has formed Six3 Systems Inc., a Fairfax, Va.-based government services acquisition platform focused on national security and defense intelligence. No financial terms were disclosed. Six3 Systems will be led by Robert Coleman, former CEO of government contractor ManTech International.
What will they acquire? That's the question.