I recently talked to Ryan Gustafson, Founder & CEO of Screen Innovations, about how he got started, how to sell filmscreens and new product developments at Screen Innovations.
Maureen Jenson: I’ve known you for years, but can you tell our readers a little bit about your experience within the A/V industry and how did Screen Innovations get its start?
Ryan Gustafson: I began my career working in video sales at Circuit City and then went on to become the number one salesman at a small mom and pop dealer in Austin, TX called A&B TV. At the time, we sold projectors that were priced at $80K and up. Regardless of what you came into the store for, I always demonstrated the “wow factor” with projectors. As projectors came down in price there was one that changed the price game—the Sony Cineza that retailed for a whopping $1,799. My buddy Aaron Reilly and I came up with an advertising promotion for the store called “The REEL DEAL.” For $4,999, or $7,999, a customer could get the Sony projector, a receiver, speakers, sub, and most importantly a 100” Austin FilmScreen™ screen. After running the advertisement in the local paper, A&B TV went from selling three projection systems a month to 17 a weekend! The light went off! I asked myself, “How do I get ALL dealers to do this!” And there it was, Austin FilmScreen (later to become Screen Innovations) was born in my garage.
MJ: Screen Innovations has been at the forefront in developing innovative screen designs like Ambient Light Rejecting (ALR) and the new SOLO screen introduced at CEDIA. Tell us about how SOLO came to be and what has been the reaction from integrators?
RG: All of our screens—Black Diamond®, Zero Edge®, Slate®, and Solo® completely change what you can do with projection. With Solo, our goal was to create a portable and wireless Zero Edge screen for indoor or outdoor entertainment that could completely disappear from view when not in use. Our variety of mounting options (including industrial strength suction cups) make it easy to move the screen anywhere—the backyard, a camping trip, or to a friend’s house.
Solo was developed on the backbone of our new Roller Shade technology giving customers the first ever rollable Zero Edge screen housed in a cassette less than three-inches wide. On a single charge, our patent-pending rechargeable lithium motor design provides up to two years of use and boom, now you have a truly wireless solution! The reaction to Solo has been one of the most humbling I have ever experienced.
Like Steve Jobs with the iPad, we truly have no idea how big Solo will become. Our marketing campaign, “How Do You Solo” is driven by the end users who post their creative ideas on how they used Solo in their lives. We are giving away a Solo a week to the person who shows us the most creative use. We are truly having a blast sharing new ways to experience the big screen.
MJ: How does Screen Innovations separate itself in a crowded video screen market?
RG: We see what people want around the corner and then we build it. We focus on one thing, “What does the world want”?
MJ: What advice do you have for integrators on selling a projection screen?
RG: Have fun with it! Always show it. You’re selling an experience, not a TV. If they don’t buy it today they will remember the experience you demonstrated to them well into the future. And, they will be back!
MJ: What tools do you provide dealers with to help them sell Screen Innovations products?
RG: In 2006 we invented the industry’s first tool for projection. It was called the Screen Wizard. For the first time dealers had the ability to properly qualify the customer into buying the right screen and projector for their customers’ environment. Ask yourself how many sports bars or houses of worship you have been in that have a projection system that looked good? :). Our goal was to solve this problem while giving the salesman the confidence to sell projection when it was new.
MJ – For more Screen Wizard details go here.