Gerald Vento, CEO/owner, Westec InterActive
Clarity Partners, Los Angeles, has invested $17.5 million in Westec InterActive, Irvine, Calif., which provides intelligent video monitoring services primarily to quick-service restaurants and convenience, jewelry and specialty retail stores.

“That represents approximately 80 percent of what we do,” related Gerald Vento, Westec’s CEO/owner, who also invested an additional $2.5 million for a total invested amount of $20 million. “We have other customers such as municipalities, auto dealers, other verticals, and we’re doing more and more in the commercial real-estate space and the displacement of guard service in shopping malls and things of that nature.”

The capital will be used to expand development of Westec’s advanced technologies for intelligent business monitoring.

“We have the ability to do not only the traditional things like two-way audio and video at our command center; now we can do much more,” Vento explained. “It seemed to me that the time was right for us to bring together the right financial resources to complement the human resources and the intelligent software and the experience that Westec has in the interactive busines, and bring all that together and bring more consistency and quality to the things we do every day for our customers.

“We are not only able to provide the core services that Westec traditionally was noted for, we can do people-counting, matching the number of people in the store to the close ratio in that store to determine whether the type of sales staff is complementing the customer traffic going in and out every day,” he noted.

“We offer exception-based reporting, rolling audits, ethnicity people-counting, other things that are valuable tools to our customer base that go beyond the traditional core competencies of shrinkage and loss prevention,” Vento listed. “If a customer has an investment in its retail environment, why not try to eke out as much information as you can to improve the metrics, to improve business practices that go beyond just protecting the assets and protection of employees and customers, and improving things like slip-and-fall or other traditional metrics. Now with smarter technology, we can do more.”

In addition to the company’s command center in Irvine, another is being added in West Des Moines, Iowa, and a network operating center in the northeastern United States, Vento revealed.

“We’ll have roughly 16 branch locations throughout the U.S.,” he declared. “We currently serve over 2,000 sites in various vertical markets. We’ll be closer to our customers. This equity infusion gives us the ability to do a number of things, all of which are designed and intended to bring more quality and consistency to the customers we serve.”

Westec already has signed a long-term lease with R & R Realty to open its new Visual Communications Center (VCC) in Iowa that will provide remote monitoring services for the company’s international customer base.

Plans calls for staffing the new facility with 120 employees to be hired over the next three years. It will be located at 1089 Jordan Creek Pkwy., West Des Moines, Iowa, and is expected to open this month.

The VCC will integrate new technologies with existing ones and will be networked with the company’s existing facilities in Irvine, Calif.; Dallas, Texas; Frederick, Md.; and Palm Beach, Fla.

Westec’s West Des Moines monitoring center will feature the company’s new iVR platform, which expands remote monitoring beyond security to intelligent business monitoring. The new iVR platform will enable enterprise-level audits and reporting, intelligent video, GPS asset-tracking and more.

In addition to its central location within the country, Westec’s decision to expand into West Des Moines is partially the result of a grant Westec is receiving from the state of Iowa through the Iowa Department of Economic Development with the assistance of the City of West Des Moines.

Westec also plans to grow through acquisitions. “I think I’m more inclined to describe a strategy that improves quality and service standards and brings more consistency to the services we provide our customers with every day,” Vento stated. “We have a certain focus on a very strategic potential acquisition, but it’s nothing I can announce to you today.”

Westec, which was founded eight years ago, has customers throughout the United States and Canada.

“We handle over a million incidents a year at our command center, and they are comprised of clerks in retail outlets pressing an assistance button, and we can look at live video and can call for assistance and even prevent incidents from occurring,” Vento maintained.

Another market sector that will gain importance for Westec is alarm verification.

“We are able very intelligently and cost-effectively to solve that video verification issue,” he added. “Since we are on the premises 24/7, we often replace burglar alarms. If customers have our system in place, we can do video verification, so if a door is triggered or an alarm goes off, we can look in and determine whether it’s a system issue, whether someone forgot their password or someone is breaking in.

“We will see more and more state and county initiatives that require some video verified response, because police resources are stretched pretty thinly these days,” he noted.

Clarity Partners is an $800 million fund that has made private equity investments in newspaper publishing, television and radio broadcasters, cable programming networks and system operators, information and online businesses, and various wireless and wireline telecommunications companies. Vento maintained this is Clarity’s first investment in the security industry.

“I think it has a lot to do with this simple confidence that we both share in our strategy and our vision for the Westec business, and certainly a validation of the management that Westec has, and the vision for taking Westec certainly beyond its core service offerings,” Vento concluded.