Strategic Exchange: Venture-backed Broadlume is out to change the industry. Will it succeed? - Dec 2021
By Kemp Harr
For a brief moment last month, I was reminded of the chant, “The whole world is watching,” which originated back in 1968 when anti-Vietnam demonstrators were beaten and arrested by police outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. You may recall this soundbite was memorialized on an album by the Chicago Transit Authority.
This memory came to mind as I attended Broadlume’s first in-person FloorCon event, and my phone lit up with inquiries from some powerful people seeking insight on details of the meeting and Broadlume’s new “all-in-one” digital platform.
Let’s set the stage: Todd Saunders is the 31-year-old CEO of Broadlume, who first appeared in the flooring industry in 2018 when he bought Floor Force (the website development company started by John Weller and Mark Lorberbaum) and who subsequently bought Creating Your Space, Floor Force’s biggest competitor in the website development business; Freetail, a Europe-based product visualization tool; Retail Lead Management, the CRM tool developed by Jason Goldberg specifically for floorcovering retailers; and Rollmaster, a ERP/accounting/inventory management system developed for flooring dealers. Saunders held an inaugural two-day conference for independent retailers at the Hyatt in Sarasota, Florida.
So, here is this young guy who started his career working for Google and is now leading a company with 160 employees, backed with $40 million of Silicon Valley venture capital money, launching a new trade show for independent flooring retailers.
I had to smile when I jumped out of my Uber on the first morning to see the pink flamingo-themed graphics that met visitors at the bell stand and carried throughout the common areas of the property to the meeting area. I remember thinking, This had to be expensive, wondering how many people were going to attend the event, and also thinking, Florida in November sure beats Vegas in January. At the opening session, Todd walked through machine-generated fog to the microphone to tell the room of roughly 300 people that he was here-along with Broadlume’s sponsor partners-to change the industry.
Now that I’m back home reflecting on the whole experience, I’m not surprised that many of the old guard power groups were calling me, curious about whether this new “technology” program was going to revolutionize the industry and potentially make obsolete the status quo.
We’ve all watched as Uber, Amazon and Google have changed the game and disrupted traditional service providers in the transportation, retail and advertising world. Is Broadlume’s new “technology” mousetrap going to revolutionize how suppliers sell flooring to consumers? At this stage, I can’t answer that, but part of the answer to that equation might be revealed by looking at the panel of sponsors. Who is there, and who is missing? Are the companies that aren’t on the sponsor list powerful enough to stop this disruption, or was this meeting strong enough to encourage them to join forces and sign up for the next event?
One small logo on the sponsor board that’s kind of the elephant in the room is Microsoft. I found it very revealing that one of the big slots on the first morning was carved out for a presentation from Microsoft, which owns Bing and LinkedIn along with Windows and Office-you get the picture. But the one disconnect, if you’re familiar with Todd’s resume, is that Microsoft was there and Google wasn’t.
At this point, it’s too soon to tell where this will all lead. I will say that a few of the speakers were interesting-especially Joe Gibbs, the former head coach of the Washington Redskins, who didn’t attend but filmed a talk for the group, including his primal thoughts on competition.
There is no denying that many of the products that Broadlume offers-like website development, digital advertising and CRM-are a necessity for even the smallest flooring retailer in the business today. But the retail selling system, complete with private label brands, display racks and a rebate program, adds a buying-group dimension to the all-in-one platform that Broadlume is offering.
In addition, as anyone who understands the retail flooring business knows, product warranties and direct customer service are highly valued tools, both when things go wrong and when retailers are trying to ensure that things go right. As of yet, there is no word on what policies or programs Broadlume has set up on either front.
Most successful business owners know that success comes from picking the right partners, and Broadlume is one that is worth considering-whether you chose to buy one or two items off the menu or go all out with their complete platform. If you’re like me, it’s always smart to pick a partner that shoots straight and is sincerely interested in helping you grow your business. The jury is still out on whether FloorCon will continue to build on this event and how long the venture capitalists will fund this technology play.
If you have any comments about this month’s column, you can email me at email@example.com.
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