Today we have selected Jennifer Halstead to take her interview. She is the CFO at Link Labs.
First of all, how are you and your team doing in these COVID-19 times?
During Covid, we transitioned to work-from-home for most teams. This allowed us to expand our talent pool to individuals who might not necessarily be at our company headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland.
We found that sales were difficult during 2020 – many companies were not spending, and the inability to be face-to-face with customers extended sales cycles. We, along with other IoT companies, used 2020 to invest in R&D – we filed 6 patents and gained breakthroughs for our customers in lowering the cost of IoT through new technologies in the indoor/outdoor tracking and monitoring arena.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded or joined this company?
Currently, I am the Chief Financial Officer at Link Labs, a leading provider of a comprehensive IoT platform for tagging, locating, and monitoring equipment, supplies, and assets anywhere at any time. As an expert in start-up and early-stage financing, I play a vital role in projecting, forecasting, budgeting, and reporting the capital required to support Link Labs’ go-to-market strategy. With more than 20 years of experience in finance and legal compliance, I also play an essential role in the company’s marketing, human resources, and operations management.
Before joining Link Labs, I spent seven years as the finance director with Cloudistics, an on-premises, cloud-computing company, delivering a complete public cloud experience with composable on-premises infrastructures to medium and large enterprises. During my time with Cloudistics, I supported the company by integrating core technology into Lenovo’s ThinkAgile CP and acquisition by Fungible.
Preceding Cloudistics, I was the controller for AppAssure Software, a software provider of backup, replication, and recovery solutions for virtual, physical, and cloud infrastructures. I led the company’s sale to Dell Technologies. During my tenure at AppAssure, I played a key role in driving the company’s 33 consecutive quarters of revenue growth. After the acquisition by Dell Technologies, I was the controller for Dell Software’s data protection division, managing worldwide finance functions for all data protection products.
For 15 years, I have also run my public accounting firm alongside my husband, Halstead & Halstead PC, specializing in outsourced CFO services to software companies and non-profit organizations.
I hold a master’s degree in accounting and business management, and I am also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), passing the CPA exam in the top 1% in Virginia. I am a musician who performs regularly with my spouse and eight children, including performances at The White House.
How does your company innovate?
Primarily, we innovate within the company and use third-party innovations where applicable. We believe that cost is one of the main drivers of IoT adoption. By driving down cost through less infrastructure, adding our patented technology to third-party off-the-shelf hardware, and increasing battery life, we have worked to make IoT available for companies to track less-expensive tools and equipment.
This provides more data analytics to management so that they can make better operational decisions. Link Labs has the only seamless indoor/outdoor tracking solution from emergency tracking in hospitality to equipment tracking in hospitals and manufacturing facilities; Link Labs has the only seamless indoor/outdoor tracking solution.
Our team is constantly challenging themselves to solve problems and find ways to drive down IoT costs to adopt the technology and transform the way they do business by driving higher revenues and reducing costs. Currently, Link Labs has more than 25 patented technologies.
Link Labs is driven by advanced software engineering and innovation, primarily at the firmware level of IoT devices — we don’t make IoT devices; we engineer the software that makes IoT devices more effective and efficient. This requires a lot of innovation. Our company holds more than 25 patents for its technological innovations that provide the means to locate, monitor, and manage critical business assets anywhere at any time.
There is a near-limitless number of business use cases for IoT, including tracing the journey of high-value shipments, enhancing workflows, ensuring compliance, improving resource allocation, tracking returnable assets, tracking movements of personnel, monitoring and preventing loss, boosting safety alerting, enhancing property and facility management, detecting costly equipment leaks and failures and tracking prefabricated elements, among others.
Link Labs consists of cross-functional teams who collectively help drive the company mission and values organization-wide. By working together and actively participating in the creation and promotion of innovations, we can innovate further and ensure our solutions push the boundaries of IoT’s next.
How the Coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
We had a significant business in hospitality, an industry severely affected by Coronavirus, so our revenue took a hard hit. We’ve started to see this come back as travel has opened up. Still, we used the interim to invest in R&D and diversify into the manufacturing, healthcare, and logistics industries.
The supply chain is also impacting IoT companies – our vendors have worked with us to keep an uninterrupted supply chain to date. Still, many companies are struggling to get the raw materials and shipping logistics to keep products available. Due to early orders and a considerable ramp at the end of 2019, we were not negatively impacted by supply chain disruptions.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Our team was amazing – we decided to weather the storm together, and all made sacrifices to cut costs during 2020. By shouldering the impact together, we came out stronger as a company. We used incentives like restricted stock and stock options to motivate employees and raised additional funds from investors to fund R&D.
Lessons learned – Act quickly and decisively when a crisis occurs (and given the global economy, a crisis will probably occur at least once in a company’s lifespan). Before the pandemic, Link Labs was heavily concentrated in the hospitality industry. But as it became clear a pandemic was on the horizon, we spent one full week revising our strategy and developing our “pandemic playbook” that enhanced our offerings and diversified our customer base.
We executed against this new strategy with lightning speed and adjusted our spending to align with a revised and quite a dire forecast for the next 12-18 months. It was a very risky and stressful decision to make. However, I firmly believe our quick actions saved the company. We not only survived as a company, but we also used it as an opportunity to reinvest in our R&D and become stronger than ever.
What specific tools, software, and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
We started daily standup calls across different teams. As a manager, this lets me see that everyone is “in the office,” and it helps us coordinate quickly for the first 15 minutes of the day and make sure everyone is on the same page.
We also added college student interns. We invested a lot in training this new team, and it allowed us to scale rapidly with lower labor costs while providing opportunities for the next generation of workers.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
We are a leader in the IoT asset tracking and monitoring space and the first to offer seamless indoor-outdoor asset tracking. We are also excited about our new capabilities of combining Bluetooth with a mobile hub to allow less expensive RFID tracking on the go. When equipment or shipments arrive within a facility, the technology seamlessly integrates with the indoor floor plan to provide an indoor location. We are constantly pushing ourselves to improve the product and user experience.
Your final thoughts
IoT is the fourth industrial revolution, with AI/ML being the fifth industrial revolution. When you combine the two and drive down the implementation and ongoing maintenance costs, you have an incredibly powerful solution for converting data into useful information and making IoT a critical component of a company’s revenue-generating and cost-cutting systems.
At Link Labs, we’re pushing on three general areas. First, we’re constantly aiming to drive down the cost of IoT solutions by utilizing lower-cost tags, such as those incorporating energy-harvesting technologies, or by extending the battery life of tags through more efficient location determination and communication.
We see many opportunities for significant further gains there. Second, we aim for interoperability with a broader set of technology partners up and down the technology stack. Solution buyers don’t want to be locked into a particular vendor; they want maximum flexibility, so the more interoperability we have, the more global we become.
And third, we are driving toward greater insights and impacts from location information. It’s not enough to know where everything is or how it is doing. It would help if you draw insights from that — think analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). You also need to be able to take action based on those insights. That means someone does something differently than before.
With workflows, alerts, and better reporting, the customer doesn’t care about the underlying technology at the end of the day. They want their business to have higher productivity, better customer service, or more efficiency. That means taking data and generating insights and making it easy to take action from those insights and generate a return on investment (ROI).
The Link Labs team is positioned to drive IoT innovation and adoption over the next year and help our customers achieve their goals.
- Spokesperson: Jennifer Halstead
- Company: Link Labs
- Website link: https://www.link-labs.com/