Contactless company to benefit from new board member’s deep industry ties
In the spring of 2007, one of the most influential names in security shocked the industry when he announced that he was leaving the company that he had helped build. As the year came to a close, he resurfaced announcing that he would join the board of directors of a small, entrepreneurial competitor to his former employer.
Joe Grillo began his career at HID in 1993. He was instrumental in the company’s growth and then managed its sale to security powerhouse ASSA ABLOY in 2000. Following the acquisition, he was named HID’s CEO and would ultimately take the same role for ASSA ABLOY’s Identification Technology Group, ITG.
Last year, Grillo announced that he would leave ITG. “It was totally my decision, it was time to do something different,” he explains. “All the years I spent at HID and since the acquisition were fantastic nothing but great relationships.”
For much of 2007, he enjoyed some quiet time and thought about next steps. “I took a lot of time off,” he says, “looked at a couple of buyout opportunities in the other RFID space – not security or locks or cards and readers – but with tightening of debt markets the opportunities were not pursued.”
Then a chance meeting at a trade show set in motion this new direction. He bumped into a former colleague from HID, John Menzel, who too had left the company to pursue other avenues. Menzel founded card reader manufacturer XccedID in 2003 and had been enjoying success as a nimble alternative to the larger manufacturers in the space.
What was the outcome of the meeting? Grillo became both an investor in XceedID and a key member of its board of directors.
The enthusiasm in Grillo’s voice is palpable when he describes the new challenge. “The entrepreneurial smaller company was appealing,” says Grillo. “Where we are brings back fond memories to the early days at HID. There is excitement, stress; every order is a big order. Taking on the industry, the world, the competitors.”
He also is bullish on the company’s technology and how it works with customers. “They are doing really good things on the technology side. We help clients move from low frequency, proximity technology with its relative lack of security, data rate speed, to a multi-function capability. Our XACTT™ technology is at the forefront of being able to move people to the next generation in a way that offers open architecture.”
“We are incredibly excited to have him in our corner,” stresses Menzel. “We did a pretty good job with some of the larger partners and resellers early on, but we have been focusing on adding additional value partners to the list. We are looking for Joe’s expertise to expand that internationally.”
Perhaps most importantly, Grillo has enormous respect and reach in the industry and brings a formidable ability to attract investors. Menzel concurs: “We have been profitable since early on, but to take it to the next level, we will need to raise investment. Joe can attract capital to do that. We have had several major industry players approach us about various forms of investment, but the time wasn’t right.”
“John has grown the company without overly leveraging the organization,” adds Grillo. “We want to pick the right type of partners and investors.”
When asked if he was there to help sell the company, Grillo says that there is always a right time to exit, “but my advice has been to keep on growing the business, and those things will work themselves out.” He has actually suggested the company look at acquisition opportunities.
In the coming months, we will see the initial impacts of Grillo’s involvement. He is serving as a non-operational board member and is an investor.
But he is doing other things as well. Foreshadowing an event to come, Grillo noted, “I fully expect to be taking on a full-time operational role in the future … in the non-security, non-lock RFID world. The XceedID effort is something to do in the extra hours I have each month.” Indeed, he accepted the position of CEO for RFID company Digital Angel early in 2008.
Still, Menzel is clearly pleased to have his involvement. “He has skin in the game and he is in it to see it be successful. I feel like we have got the best available guy in the industry on our team now.”