Randy: You are the founder of Venture Lighting, Europe. When was the company founded in Europe?
Keith: I founded Venture in Europe 25 years ago, after a chance meeting with Wayne Hellman at this same exhibition when it was held in Hanover.
Randy: Our audience thinks of Venture as the leader in MH technology, which you are obviously. Tell our audience a little about the transition to LED.
Keith. Originally our business was focused 50% on the distribution business and 50% on the OEM, and the reason for that was because we wanted the OEM to create the socket and distribution to maintain those sockets. With the introduction of LED we have seen HID sales at major OEMs shrink in the last three to five years. However, having said that, there are millions of sockets out there, and it will take many years for this to disappear so our distribution channel is servicing this business very well.
We were late to the LED business, but because of our strength in Europe in the distribution channel, it has allowed us to introduce LED products into that channel. Our strong reception has demonstrated the power of the Venture brand as our customers been very welcoming. Recently we have seen the LED revolution—and it really is like a revolution—in that it has created so many LED startup up companies….
Randy: …are these startups good for the industry?
Keith: Well some of them are good and some may not be good. When talking to a high level end user about quality he wants to be well serviced and that is where our 25-year pedigree and the relationships we have established are vital. I don’t want to be critical of new companies, but you don’t want to buy a car from a company with no pedigree, so we find our history and reputation our quite significant for gaining new LED business.
Randy: Unfortunately these car companies with no pedigree are offering some very tempting prices, how do you educate the market to pay for the quality and the pedigree you offer?
Keith: We are pitching our business on quality and innovation, sometimes offering up to a 50,000-hour warranty. When customers purchase Venture products they know that we will be here in 50, 000 hours should that warranty become necessary. There are so many companies offering warranties, which are longer than the life of their company. How will the user have any comfort knowing that a start up company will be here in 50,000 hours?
Randy: You had a strong core competency, some would argue, an unfair advantage, because of your dominance in Metal Halide. Do you enjoy any core competencies with LED?
Keith: Yes, we have several, which we are showing at our booth. One big advantage we have is from our sister company, Auer Lighting, who manufacturers our glass lenses. We did a project in London, the Westminster project. We were able to meet their distribution requirements because of the advantage of our glass. As you know, glass can withstand higher temperatures so we have no risk whatsoever of degradation. Regarding life, the glass will last forever, and we also have the ability to apply coatings which achieve over 90% efficiency. Our glass is a real core competency and an advantage which we have in production.
Randy: What are some of the products you are showing at L + B?
Keith: We are showing the Westminster project as well as a range of LED fixtures that are targeted to the distribution market, and we will also be able to take those luminaires to the specification market as well.
Randy: Do you find LED to be as profitable as Metal Halide?
Keith: We do, especially on the distribution side, as we are most definitely enjoying very good margins with LED.
Randy: We are here in 2016, what will we be talking about in 2020?
Keith: Well in 2020, I may be retired, and coming here from a different perspective. But it is truly an exciting time to be in lighting because of the opportunities and the results we are achieving at Venture. In fact, I just came back from a holiday in the Caribbean, at a location where I have been many years. At the resort, the palm trees were lit with in-ground fixtures and I suspect they were 100-watt HID. I got down on my hand and knees and discovered that the new fixtures were 12-watt LED and I was astounded by the amount of light from these 12-watt fixtures. LED technology is creating great opportunities.
Although we had a late start, the transition to LED is going extremely smooth and we are well positioned. Today, we are selling LED in a big way and capitalizing on these tremendous opportunities.