Out of the Basement

The rise of a surveillance technology start-up

While many young adults in their 20s are still figuring out what they are going to do with their life, Thomas Carnevale was in the developmental stages of security innovations for his own company. One thing he did have in common with some other “twenty-somethings” was this—he was starting his company from his parent’s basement.

Out of the BasementCarnevale, president and CEO of Sentry 360, comes from a long line of entrepreneurs so it was fitting that his father’s basement was the starting place of his business. His grandfather, an entrepreneur in the diamond business and his father, an instrumental part in redefining point-of-sale management software, both inspired Carnevale to pursue his dream of being the biggest and best in the security industry.

It all began with an idea to become the best video management software (VMS) manufacturer in the industry. This big idea grew into a valuable learning experience for Carnevale, with great opportunities from W Hotels, Des Plains Public Works and the Chicago Housing Authority.

While work remained consistent from 2004 to 2007, security installations took place predominantly in the Chicagoland area and growth for Carnevale’s small company was on the horizon.

Sentry360 evolved and took on new partners in 2008—partners with development backgrounds, and an expertise in sensors, algorithms and embedded hardware engineering. With a focus on user experience and finding a niche, Carnevale was preparing to embark on a tour with new camera technology, while battling a harsh recession. One thing that was in his favor then, and still benefits Sentry360 today, is that all Sentry360 products are made in America, by an American-owned company.

Carnevale was eager to share his “made-in-the- USA” products with the world, hoping they would have a great influence on the global market. These products proved to be problem-solvers, as the 360-degree fish eye camera solved the blind-spot problem in video surveillance, reducing labor and maintenance and giving the end user full coverage with persistent detail.

Out of the Basement“Our goal was a camera that meets all open architecture specifications, and that works with any VMS,” Carnevale said. “We also wanted to introduce a product that provides lower power consumption, meets certain form factor criteria, adopts H.264 standards and is cost effective.”

Like many other manufacturers, Sentry360 was hit hard by the recession in 2008. While they were fortunate it didn’t stop production or shut the company down entirely, it certainly had Carnevale, now 33 years of age, worried about the future of his business.

“My wife is what kept me going,” he said. “She said if you give-up now you will regret it for the rest of your life. I knew I had her support, so we kept on moving forward.”

Like other small manufacturers, Sentry360 is now experiencing rapid growth and outgrowing their surroundings. They are in the process of looking for a larger facility for shipping, receiving, distribution as well as a comfortable workspace for all employees. Since 2010, the company has grown over 350% in revenue and says 2013 has been a breakthrough year introducing two new locations in Dubai and Turkey. The company’s success is due, in large part, to the employees who have become a family over the years.

“When we first started out, there were three, maybe four of us in the office,” said Liz Brady, operations coordinator at Sentry360. “It feels like we’re adding new people every month and have several working overseas, where our business is booming.”

At Sentry360, no one person is one-dimensional, and success is a team effort. In support of this idea, the team holds each other accountable by having what they call a “Boulder Meeting” every Monday morning to start the week off on the right foot. Each person takes the time to talk about their successes and challenges.

“We’re focused as a team,” Carnevale said. “We’ve built a community here, and we like to have fun at work and enjoy our successes together. Even though I feel we’ve grown out of the ‘start-up’ phase I like to keep us still in that mind-set. A few of our principals are: inter-dependency and accountability; continuous improvement, openness and transparency; adaptability and resourcefulness, innovation, creation and growth.”

In the future, Sentry360 expects to see more debate on cloud storage, intelligence at the camera and more communication about edge storage. Carnevale believes that his company will take a forward position in higher-resolution cameras, as well as a lower-cost camera so that the majority of security end users will adopt the IP camera more readily than the outdated analog program. “A big mission for us in 2013 was to let the world know Sentry360 does a lot more than just 360° cameras. In the past 2 years we’ve introduced a 180° panoramic series & Ultra HD resolution directional cameras,” said Carnevale. “We may even take a stab at the consumer market.”

Carnevale explained how the company is developing a control panel for IP video to work as a healthmonitoring platform. It will double as a configuration tool and monitoring in the cloud for any problems on the server, switches, hard drive, software or problems within the camera system. This will be introduced to the market by sentryView, a Universal IP camera configuration tool where the installation process of up to 250 camera systems takes less than 120 seconds and then have export features to the VMS of choice.

“We want the experience with our products to be elite,” Carnevale said. “We truly believe that if we make our products easy to use, install, and maintain with a careful balance of innovation that keeps us one step ahead of our competitors that we have a recipe for long-term success.”

While it’s been many years since the business operated out of a basement, Carnevale ensures that the same mindset used back then is still being promoted at Sentry360 today. Sometimes, the road less traveled can lead the way in the end.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.

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