For the third consecutive year, Apple tops the list of most innovative companies.
Small Business Success: Trade Show Internet Solutions
With all of its economic turmoil, 2008 was a risky year to start a business. However, young entrepreneurs Seth Burstein and Ian Framson knew that it was their time because they had repeatedly experienced first-hand the prohibitively expensive costs for exhibitors to purchase internet from in-house providers at trade shows.
The industry has been dominated by four major players that serve American hotels and convention centers: AVT, PSAV, SwissCom, and Smart City Networks.
Burstein and Framson realized that they could price equipment rentals far more competitively than the established competitors, and Trade Show Internet (TSI) was born.
"We solve Internet and WiFi challenges at events. For exhibitors, TSI provides our easily deployed Internet Kit rentals," Framson writes. "For event organizers, our network engineering team builds professionally engineered event-wide WiFi networks on-site to ensure the highest level of quality and service for high density events."
To grow a business during a recession, one needs to be price sensitive. Framson says, "In a down economy, corporate budgets are under extreme scrutiny and the marketing budget is typically the first thing to get slashed."
Since exhibiting at a trade show can be expensive, during the recession, many companies withdrew from exhibiting altogether, and the ones that remained put every expense under a magnifying glass. This gave TSI just the opening they needed.
"To gain traction, we knew we'd have to attack a category with bloated fees while delivering significant value. We focused on reducing exhibitor Internet connectivity costs, a category we saw as low hanging fruit, since the going rate at most hotels and convention centers was $1,200 for an exhibitor T1 line supporting 4 computers," Framson explains of TSI's initial strategy. "At less than $500, we were able to provide a comparable level of service with our Internet Kit while passing an average savings of $700 to our clients."
While it seems that most younger entrepreneurs start businesses in the more familiar and sexy consumer-oriented space, TSI serves a very narrow B2B niche: Exhibitors save money and gain convenience, while event organizers can prevent WiFi network failure.
As for the future, Framson says, "We just served our 2,000th client. We are now aggressively moving forward with our event-wide WiFi engineering services for event organizers."
He adds that the company has achieved growth every year by staying "laser-focused on delivering value to our clients and constantly scanning competitors to understand your customers' decision landscape."
Deviating from more traditional product-centric business beliefs that are currently in vogue -- especially after Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, despite the photo-sharing platform never earning a dime -- Framson advises: "Don't focus on the product. Focus on solving problems at a profit."
And for other would-be entrepreneurs, he concludes, "Finding one paying customer proves there is an opportunity. Finding 1,000 paying customers proves there is a market. Seek market proof and traction, then scale."