Circle Back is a podcast produced by the Nashville Entrepreneur Center where we listen to success stories from big ideas to big success. On this episode of Circle Back, we get to meet local entrepreneur, Marty Renkis.
From a young age, Marty was always a creator. From profiting a whopping $12 from his childhood lemonade stand, to shooting action movies using only a super 8 camera and plastic action figures, Marty was always coming up with ways to innovate. He took this creative ambition with him to college when he changed his major from chemical engineering to an economics and cinema double major. From there he would go on to pursue film for a few years, serving as an assistant director on a movie and shooting a documentary in Berlin. Although he loved these years in a creative outlet, he decided to move back home to Pennsylvania and work for his father’s company in the sales department.
While he enjoyed working for his father (as it brought him to his love for Nashville and the classic meat and 3), he soon realized that his creative vision belonged with computers. Following his intuition, he decided to move on from Pennsylvania and to Nashville.
Becoming an Entrepreneur
While in Nashville he met someone who worked at Bridgestone who was complaining about lost production time when training new employees. Channeling his love for video, Marty proposed the idea of recording training videos for new employees to watch on a computer so that the production line can continue to run. He pitched this idea to the board at Bridgestone, got a Microsoft software developer to create the technology, and sold the interactive training program for $20k. Making sure to retain his rights to this idea, he went on to sell this software to 25% of fortune 500 companies in the US and earned $2.5M.
After meeting his wife and moving to Raleigh, Marty transitioned from the realm of e-learning and reignited his love for video by inventing the idea of a remote home surveillance software. He created his company called SmartVue, which developed a product called CloudVue. Customers received a plug in box that would connect to wireless cameras around their household. The footage gathered by the cameras would then be uploaded to a cloud allowing customers to monitor their residence from afar. The company took off as their customer profile consisting of Masters Golf, the household of the King of Jordan, various museums, and Andy Rubin. Business skyrocketed as they made a multi-million dollar deal with what will be their largest customer, Time Warner Cable. This deal allowed SmartVue to install home surveillance in tens of thousands of homes, and upload more video footage to the cloud every day than Youtube did worldwide. SmartVue was eventually acquired by Johnson Controls.
Success Today and Tomorrow
When looking back on the business itself, Renkis shares, “as a business it was not a success, but as a technology it was a major success.” Living with his family in Nashville, he continues his adventure in tech and works as an intrapreneur at Johnson Controls. When reflecting upon the lifespan of his business, Renkis says there are no regrets, “I’m proud of what was accomplished and will continue to spark new ideas and new innovations.”
Martin is also a master mentor at the Vanderbilt Won’dry Launch Venture Incubator where he continues to help other entrepreneurs on their journey.