Brivo celebrates 20 successful, rewarding years

Steve Van Till shares his keys to success, advice to others, the future of cloud and more
Friday, March 6, 2020

BETHESDA, Md.—With 20 years of security innovation, over 20 million users across 42 countries and its first acquisition in the company’s history, privately held Brivo is taking its cloud business to the next level. Their mission — to provide “Simply Better Security” solutions that improve user experience — is illuminated throughout this Security Systems News (SSN) Q&A with Brivo President and CEO Steve Van Till. 

Brivo was launched at a time when the industry was dominated by on-prem. Was it scary to launch a cloud company during this time? If so, how did you overcome the fear(s) and just go for it? 

Brivo’s founders came out of industries where SaaS was already becoming an accepted model for software and service delivery, so we thought we would be “greeted as liberators,” as the saying goes. Instead, we confronted many fears and an attitude that “if on-prem was good enough for my father, it’s good enough for me,” so to speak. Many responses were even simpler: “it won’t work.” Today, of course, we know that was all wrong and cloud has come to dominate every industry and every enterprise software vertical.

What do you think are the keys to success to Brivo's 20 years in the industry?  

As with any startup, the key is perseverance. We started out with good product-market fit, which is also key, even though the market didn’t know it at the time. We slowly learned that in a channel-dominated industry like security, the product has to be as good a fit for the channel as it is for the end user.  

The biggest change we made from our original model was to sell all of the recurring revenue through the dealer channel rather than directly to the end user, which we had originally copied from the cellular industry. Once we made that change, our interests and the dealers’ interests were fully aligned, and that spurred adoption.

What advice would you give to others wanting to start a cloud-based security company? 

My advice today would be much different than it would have been before cloud became ubiquitous. Today, cloud is assumed, so you have to fall back on all the usual tenets of creating a good product and business: company culture, customer first and solving a real problem.

What is the best thing about Brivo for integrators? End users? Partners?

Integrators appreciate the comprehensiveness of our feature set and the breadth of our ecosystem, in addition to the alignment of our business model with theirs.

End users have always praised Brivo’s products for their ease of use, and I still think that matters a great deal.

Partners love our API because it makes it easy for them to build vertical-specific workflows on top of our access control platform. This past year we also added a mobile-developed SDK which does the same thing for partners who want to embed our functionality into their own app.

Where is Brivo and cloud heading, and where do you think Brivo and cloud will be in the next 20 years? 

We see ourselves growing further into the enterprise and multifamily spaces as larger and larger customers keep pulling us in that direction. Enterprise security professionals were slower to adopt the cloud than a lot of SMBs, but what we see now is that they all want a cloud solution the next time they do a technology refresh. What that means is that the next five to 10 years will see a lot of conversions from on-prem to cloud.

Key Takeaways 

  • Confront fears.
  • The keys to any startup are perseverance and a good product-market fit.
  • Be flexible and willing to change.
  • Create a good product and business that focuses on company culture, putting the customer first and solving a real problem.
  • Over the next five to 10 years, expect to see conversions from on-prem to cloud.