When asked what his biggest accomplishment is in business, Todd Pedersen, founder and CEO of Vivint, has just one thing to say: “That has yet to be seen.”
So far, Pedersen says, his biggest accomplishment has been surviving. He became an entrepreneur at age 22 to prove a point to a company that didn’t offer him a job after college, starting a competitor company to prove he could accomplish just as much on his own. And once he proved himself, he just kept going. That company, which has evolved into Vivint, has grown to 7,000 employees and helps thousands of customers across the United States manage home-automation systems. Now, the company is among the largest providers of home-automation services in the country. In 2012, Blackstone acquired Vivint for $2 billion.
Vivint started as a home-security company, similar to ADT. But after thinking about what people really needed, Pedersen decided Vivint could do a lot more. Gradually, the company started adding and integrating services and technologies. With Vivint, homeowners can control lighting, thermostat, security, electricity, and appliances from anywhere on a smartphone or computer.
Pedersen believes the technologies Vivint provides should make people’s lives easier, not complicate them further. So he offers as many services as possible to integrate into the automation, from green energy to wireless Internet. The service is streamlined so that customers can use as many or as few features as they want. “We’re probably one of the biggest companies you’ve never heard of,” Pedersen says. “We want to be the company that people think of when they think of home automation. So we’re going to keep going, keep trying to help make people’s lives easier.”
Even with huge success and lofty goals, Pedersen and Vivint still have a down-to-earth attitude. After Blackstone invested in the company, Pedersen kept half of his equity in the company and many employees invested their own money as well. This gives everyone pride of ownership and something to work for, Pedersen says. He also gives back to the entrepreneur community as part of Plus550, a collaborative investment group that lends money to start-ups, allowing new entrepreneurs to retain control of their companies.
Pedersen has some advice for new entrepreneurs: “Never start a business just to make money,” he says. “If that’s the main driver behind the business, it’s probably going to fail. When it comes time to make hard decisions about the customers and the employees, you can’t make all of those decisions based on money.”
That belief has bolstered Vivint’s success. Pedersen has never seen the need for an ostentatious office or expensive amenities. But he says it’s not being cheap; it’s just being responsible. Putting money back into the business, and into research and innovation, has driven Vivint further than an elaborate office would have.
But there’s also one thing Pedersen would have done differently himself. “I wish I would have thought bigger,” he says. “It has taken me 20 years to think really big. Whatever we set our minds to, we can do it.”