5 Questions For: Barbara Nelson, CEO, Element Labs

1. What was your background before recently joining Element Labs as CEO?

Prior to Element Labs, I was CEO of NeoScale, a company which provided enterprise security systems for data storage. We grew from a couple of customers to clients like Visa, GE, Marriott, and Wal-Mart. I started as an electrical engineer at Intel, when no one knew who we were. In my 13 years there, I saw firsthand what it takes to scale a company from an early market innovator to a dominant industry leader. This is the vision for Element Labs.

2. What are your long-term goals for the company, and has the recent economic climate caused revisions in your plans?
Element Labs’ goal is to continually pioneer a creative palette of LED lighting and video products that leverage a common platform of powerful processing. Our launch of Cobra last October is testimony to this strategy.

From a market viewpoint, we will dramatically build on our success in entertainment while extending our reach into architecture. We also see big growth in sports, which is a new area for us. Last year, half our business was international with major installations on four continents. This has proven to be a real plus as we see pockets of real strength around the globe.

The economic impact depends on the segment. For example, in entertainment, one of our sweet spots has been concert tours. These are still selling out. The good news is, if you’re paying $100 for a ticket, you want to be able to see the show, so good video is a must. To the point, Celine Dion, Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Marco Borsato, and Nine Inch Nails are currently on tour using Element Labs video products.

Sport is very hot in certain areas, and there are a number of large fixed install deals. We have a multimillion dollar opportunity with a casino that is pedal-to-the-metal on installation.

Having the right price points is key, so smaller budgets can go further. It was serendipity that Cobra is 16mm and 11mm, which is a good spot for demand/price.

3. What is the best professional advice you have ever received?
Two come to mind: A musical director I worked for years ago drilled into us, “The curtain goes up, and the only thing that matters is the show.” Or the corollary: Perform—no whining, no excuses. It’s not just true in entertainment. Taking ownership is key. Being ready to seize the day is critical.

Second, what matters in golf, matters in life. Constantly scan and assess the lay of the land. Be consistent: have a system for success. Predictable birdies and par are always better than a flashy hole-in-one amidst a string of bogies. Practice, practice, practice. Keep your head in the game. Persevere in bad weather, and adjust accordingly. Gear matters. Keep your eye on the ball. Don’t take advice from people who don’t care about you and don’t know and love the game. Know the clubs that work for you, and ditch the rest. Don’t kill the ball. Let your natural momentum carry you. Keep your head down longer than you think you need to. Follow through. Understand the rules. Don’t cheat. Repair your divots. Be quiet when others are swinging. Play with people you like. Have some fun!

4. And the worst?
Dress like a man. Look ten years older. Don’t laugh. That way people will take you seriously. What a bunch of bollocks! Shakespeare had it right: “To thine own self be true.”

5. What can Element Labs do to be “green” in terms of manufacturing, production, and recycling?
The most compelling impact Element Labs can have is enabling a broad community beyond us to be green. Cobra does this. At roughly 20% the power of any other solution, Cobra allows not only significantly lower energy usage and cost but eliminates the need for fans and A/C. Since it is an LED product, it doesn’t use harmful chemicals. It is fully RoHS-compliant. Of course, we do recycle cans and paper at Element Labs.

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