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Velodyne Appoints New Management Amid Changes

8/06/2012 12:01:00 AM Eastern
MORGAN HILL, CALIF. – Subwoofer supplier Velodyne Acoustics appointed a new executive team to shepherd the company’s entry into new audio product categories, including headphones, and launch a new channel strategy.

The new executive lineup includes Stuart Woods as executive VP/GM, George Manlove as sales and channel marketing VP, Devon Bergman as marketing and consumer sales VP, and Jack Travis as key sales team leader, the company said.

They join president Marta Hall and founder/CEO David Hall.

“We’re resetting our audio business,” Manlove said of the company’s plans.

Woods has 20 years of international technologybased industry management experience. He has worked previously for Coherent, SPI Lasers, Cisco Systems and Pirelli Optical Systems.

In his role at Velodyne, he will oversee the general management of the company and has responsibilities in the company’s LiDAR and audio business units and the advanced research group.

Bergman was product director at Gracenote, where he spearheaded the development of Gracenote eyeQ, an interactive program guide adopted by TV manufacturers. He also worked at Dolby Laboratories.

At Velodyne, Bergman is responsible for defining and executing Velodyne’s global marketing strategy and developing a product roadmap as the company expands into new markets.

Travis managed Monster Cable’s headphone business and previously served as sales and marketing VP for Harman’s consumer brands.

Manlove, former CEO of Montana-based A/V specialty chain Vann’s, was with Vann’s for 26 years. His focus includes the expansion of the company’s international sales, which account for about 40 percent of dollar volume.

Manlove said he came to Velodyne after getting a graduate degree in marketing because of the company’s small size, family ownership, and reputation for innovation.

Velodyne was the first audio company to incorporate servo technology in subwoofers, he said, but its engineering innovation goes beyond audio. Through separate Velodyne divisions, company co-founder David Hall spearheaded the development of LiDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology for use in self-driving vehicles, and he developed self-leveling technology that keeps marine vehicles from jet skis to cruise ships from rocking.

Velodyne licensed the self-driving technology to Caterpillar for mining equipment, and Google is testing it in selfdriving cars that it is developing.

Shortly, Velodyne will announce a new channel strategy to make sure Velodyne products “bring value and profitability to us and our partners” in the U.S. and international markets, Manlove told TWICE. The company will be “relentless in protecting the value of its brand,” he said. Without offering details, he also said the company values “narrow and selective distribution” and that the company is “looking for the right relationships.” He also noted that independent retailers make up “the core of our customer base” but that for such new product categories as headphones, it’s “important to look at where customers are shopping.”

Woods said the company will enter “new categories of personal audio” and that the product expansion “demands an updated channel-marketing and distribution strategy.”

Velodyne’s distribution strategy changed radically last year, when the company dropped independent reps and began selling Velodyne-branded subwoofers to retailers and distributors direct through in-house salespeople and through its web site. Like before, dealers who bought through distributors had to be preapproved by Velodyne.

In another change in 2011, the company began selling its products direct to consumers via its website, though at MAP prices. Manlove said direct sales to consumers, however, are not a priority.

And some months ago Velodyne began to phase out the Chrysalis brand to focus on building the Velodyne brand.

One channel strategy that won’t change is the use of in-house sales, whose staff has been beefed up “dramatically,” Manlove said. He called the inside sales team one of the strongest in the industry.

As for whether the company will continue to sell through distributors, Manlove called it “premature” to comment.

Manlove commented plenty about future product plans, which include an expansion of the company’s headphone selection. Late last year, the company introduced its first headphones, an in-ear pair at a suggested $89. To that, Velodyne will add three more headphone pairs at the CEDIA Expo and Berlin’s IFA. They will consist of one reference headphone and two Bluetooth models.

During International CES next year, Velodyne will expand the selection again with a noise-canceling headphone and a headphone pair incorporating a technology never before used in headphones, Manlove said. “It will be a gamechanger in performance and design,” he promised.

Then, in the spring, Velodyne will launch its first headphone series for the sports and fitness market.

All headphones will incorporate the company’s “bass DNA,” he said.

At CES other categories will be introduced, including its first soundbar, which will be an active model.

In subwoofer-product changes, the company plans to make running changes to its existing subwoofers to add built-in wireless. The changes will begin as soon as inventories of existing subwoofers need to be replaced, he said.

Meantime, the company plans at the CEDIA Expo and IFA to launch three new subwoofers with built-in wireless.

The company also markets a wireless transmitter and companion receiver, which can be added to any existing subwoofer.
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