Jonathan Blanshay, CEO of Revision, Talks Growth, International Markets & Digital Capabilities of Eyepro with Laura Burgess Marketing
Their products deliver the highest standards of protection, optical clarity, durability, compatibility and comfort. Revision is permanently committed to providing the leading-edge head and face protective solutions and equipment for mission critical military use worldwide, and are continually dedicated to the exploration of new possibilities and superior solutions.
A client of Laura Burgess Marketing for six years, Jonathan Blanshay, Chief Executive Officer of Revision, recently sat down with LBM to discuss Revision’s past, present and future direction of the company and eyepro as a whole.
Laura Burgess Marketing: Jonathan, thank you for taking the time to sit down with us today to discuss Revision and its on going mission. Am I correct in assuming this is your tenth year anniversary?
Jonathan Blanshay: Yes, we incorporated the company in 2001 and started January 2002, so it’s not quite 10 years yet, but it’s getting close.
LBM: Ok, so looking back over the past decade would you consider your company goals on target? What were your initial goals when you started the business in 2001/2002?
JB: Well, there was no grand plan when the company was formed, it was mostly opportunistic. I had spent more than 10 years in the finance industry and had gotten a little bored of it and wanted a new challenge. I had always felt that I would eventually start my own business that actually made something useful and so looking around and checking into different opportunities, this one came up. So I grabbed it.
Really the only goal at the time was to do something new, learn and have fun and hopefully be able to pay the rent. It wasn’t started with a very clear idea of exactly where we wanted to go with it. But as so often happens with life, you have a few happy accidents and things tend to work out. I can certainly say when it all started ten years ago we weren’t even thinking of the military at that time. That was something that came up after a year in.
LBM: You’ve experienced rapid growth, several facility moves, military contracts worldwide and new product development from concept to production – are you expecting the next ten years to be just as busy and are you expecting to increase market share in other markets or continue to focus on the military channels? Why?
JB: Ten years is an awful long time to look out toward, but we’ve built a very strong brand within the military and we’ve built a great team that is focused on that market segment, so I certainly see us continuing to concentrate within that market.
I think we will continue to add new products and new technologies. We’re definitely still growing and I don’t see any signs that that will stop anytime soon, even with the draw down of troops and tighter budgets. I still believe the military is always looking for newer, stronger, better, faster. I think that’s exactly what we deliver, so I believe we will continue to grow – maybe not as quickly as the last ten years – but we will certainly continue to add new products, new capabilities and new people.
As far as market segments go, I don’t really see us moving into the consumer world, but I can see us expanding sales into the government channels from being 97% military to 70% military and 30% law enforcement/tactical/security markets. Definitely the technology drive will continue to be towards satisfying military requirements.
LBM: I think we’re all aware of what’s happening in the world right now. Are you seeing a higher demand from international military markets?
JB: Yes, you know a lot of the international markets tend to follow what happens in North America. Sometimes it could take a year or two, sometimes it could take five or six, but definitely the international markets are a growth opportunity for us and I think they will be for some time to come.
They don’t necessarily have as much sophistication, troops, or in some cases the budget as the U.S. does, but at the end of the day soldiers are soldiers and they need to be protected. Many of these international markets are starting to recognize that what the U.S. has known for many years is something that can be helpful to their troops as well.
Will it exactly offset the decrease in the US? I don’t know. Certainly for the first time we’re really starting to see the international markets be a meaningful part of the global mix.
LBM: How do you determine what future technologies to invest in research and development?
JB: There are three factors that we consider.
One is customer demand and need. We do a lot of interfacing with the end users, program managers and scientists and technology folks within the various militaries, particularly in the U.S., and try to understand where there are unmet needs.
Secondly, we do internal brainstorm sessions and build on the competencies we’ve already developed. The more we work in these fields, the more knowledge we get, the more capabilities we develop, the more employees with past experience with certain technologies or materials that we hire…that builds its own momentum.
Finally, just being very aware of what’s out there in the market place. We go to a lot of tradeshows; we have a lot of market scans. We try to stay really current with new technologies and we have a lot of companies approaching us. When you’re number one in your market segment as we are, someone has a technology that might apply to soldier protection, it is very natural that we would be at the top of the list to partner with.
I think it’s a combination of those three things and what I would certainly say about R&D is that it needs to be focused, but it also needs to be very exploratory because things change so quickly. Technologies change and user needs change. You have to be very nimble and react quickly. I think that’s something that Revision has always done very well and I certainly think we’ll continue to look at the market that way.
LBM: What percent of your employees are scientists, engineers and R&D technicians?
JB: The technical part of our business is something in the neighborhood of about 20-25%, perhaps a little bit more. That would be everyone from pure R&D to designers and engineers through manufacturing engineering and lab techs. If you add all that up that’s probably about 50 people out of 200 employees.
LBM: Do you ever think we’ll see the day when pilots and soldiers will have digital capabilities in their eyepro?
JB: Yeah, sure, I think the day is already here in a lot of cases. Head up displays are something that certainly has been in the air community for a long time, particularly in visors. There are a lot of trials going on with new and improved technologies. A lot of global militaries have in their soldier modernization programs digital displays that are embedded into eyewear or are used as a monocular that can be folded down from the helmet.
It’s definitely here, but it hasn’t been perfected yet. I think the feeling from most users now is its kind of information overload. Having too much data constantly in your sight lines can be disorienting. It’s not yet something where its there when you need it, it seems to be there all the time. There’s really no doubt that in 5-10 years every single soldier will have some kind of display or helmet mounted viewer – something where they can readily get information about battle field conditions, friend and foe positions, maps, GPS, wind speed – anything else that might be relevant.
It’s not that far away. There are a lot of prototypes our there. Luckily for us we’re really focusing on being a platform, not the core technology, not the electronics, but the thing that has to be integrated to work with soldier equipment. No matter which direction the military goes in terms of different technology, at the end of the day, if we have the platform and we understand soldier needs and we’re the protection and comfort piece of it, then other people’s technologies will have to work with ours.
LBM: Can you tease us a bit with what Revision is working on now?
JB: Sure. I don’t want to get too specific, but broadly speaking we have taken the view that soldier protection is becoming more integrated, that is, the Soldier as a System concept. We believe that having become the leader in eye protection and understanding soldiers needs and what the constraints are, our next step is definitely to expand the product offerings into other areas of soldier equipment.
We’re going to focus first and foremost on the head and face. We have some very cutting edge, new technology that we hope to be launching either late this year or early next year. We can’t say much more about it than that, but certainly it’s going to be revolutionary, military focused and directly in the area of soldier protection.
LBM: Thank you Jonathan for taking the time out of your busy schedule to sit down and have this chat with us. I’m sure our readers will enjoy learning just a little bit more about this great company called Revision.