Impinj, Riding Wave of RFID Resurgence, Looks to Double Sales, Add 20 Employees

10/13/10Follow @gthuang

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combined. It is also seeing “significant growth” in sales of its RFID readers and reader chips. The company is on track to increase revenue by 50 percent over last year, and is projecting 100 percent growth from this year to next year, Colleran says.

With these projections comes a new round of strategic hiring at the firm. Impinj went through a round of layoffs in the spring of 2009. But now it is hiring to fill about 20 open positions in Seattle, Colleran says. The company has just over 100 employees, down from about 130 in February of last year.

A few specific areas of growth for Impinj (and also companies like ThingMagic, which had 32 employees as of August): retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Bloomingdales, Macy’s, and Levi’s say they will do inventory tracking of individual items of apparel to reduce the need to overstock items on shelves; apparel shops want to provide smart recommendations to customers in dressing rooms, based on what they are trying on; and Coca-Cola is doing marketing tests of different beverage flavors using RFID-enabled dispensing machines (a project developed in partnership with DEKA, the New Hampshire-based company run by inventor Dean Kamen).

So, if RFID applications do explode, could Impinj become the biggest tech success story out of Seattle since Amazon.com? That remains to be seen, but there are a few parallels—including being a strong survivor of a recession, and having compelling and unique technology in a reawakened market. Much of the company’s future will be determined by the strength and character of its leadership team. (So long as they keep talking to the press, so good.)

From where Colleran sits, the hardest thing about the past few years clearly was
“weathering the storm with the economic downturn from last year, coupled with the fact that RFID hadn’t crossed the chasm of mainstream adoption,” he says. Now the company’s challenges are all about expanding smartly while continuing to do the crucial daily work of running a business. “How do you move from shipping tens of millions of units per quarter to billions of units per quarter?” Colleran says. The company needs to “do it in a measured way, but we’re also bursting at the seams.”

It doesn’t sound like an exit is in the cards anytime soon. “The vision hasn’t changed. We’ve been focused on building the best company we can,” he says. “Liquidity events will present themselves. Those opportunities look a heck of a lot better than they ever did. That doesn’t mean we do things differently. The magnitude of the exit opportunities get better all the time. Our investors are patient. They say, ‘What’s the best long-term decision from where we stand today?’”

To that end, Impinj has a wry sense of the future that could serve it well. “We are crossing the chasm, and we see this tornado of growth ahead of us,” Colleran says. “Thank god it’s finally here—now be careful what you wish for.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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