Vivint gets new COO—from outside the industry

David Bywater and other outside hires bring ‘really good perspectives’ to Vivint, President Alex Dunn says
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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

PROVO, Utah—Vivint has a new COO: former Xerox executive David Bywater. The recent hire marks the third time this year that Vivint has gone outside the industry to add to its executive team.

Hiring an industry outsider is not necessarily a goal of Vivint, but it can be beneficial, Alex Dunn, president of the home automation/home security provider, which is based here, told Security Systems News.

“We’re just trying to build the best team possible, find the best people possible, and if they come from outside the industry that’s something we’re OK with,” Dunn said. “And a lot of times they bring really good perspectives to the company, so it’s a benefit.”

Dunn said that is the case with Bywater, who most recently was an EVP and corporate officer for Xerox and COO of its $1.8 billion state government services division. Bywater formerly worked for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), which Xerox acquired in 2009.

“One of the things we’re trying to do as we fill out the executive team to make sure we have people that the company is going to grow into, and not have people that grow into the company, just because we’re growing so fast,” Dunn said. “We’re very lucky to get [Bywater], and his experience in running very large organizations at Xerox is going to be helpful as we grow the business to help us get to where we want to get to.”

Bywater told SSN that he has known Vivint CEO Todd Pedersen for more than a decade and greatly admires the success of Vivint, which was purchased by The Blackstone Group last year for more than $2 billion

“I think Vivint has got great momentum and I’m really impressed with what they’ve done,” Bywater said. He said his “goal is to help accentuate that” and scale the business and make it stronger as it grows.

Dunn previously held the position of COO but Vivint announced early this year that it had promoted him to president.  

Around that same time, Vivint hired Matthew Eyring in the newly created position of chief innovation officer. Eyring, formerly a prominent business strategy consultant, also came from outside the security industry.

Then this summer, Vivint hired a new chief information officer, Todd Thompson, who hails from the hotel and airline industries. 

Bywater, who started his job in the middle of July, was the next hire. Bywater said he and Eyring were classmates at Harvard Business School, where they both earned MBA degrees.

Bywater said it’s not uncommon for executives in one industry to become executives in another. For example, he noted, Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson formerly was EVP of UnitedHealth Group.

And in the decade Bywater spent working for ACS/Xerox, he ran more than 65 different service companies, which he said were extremely diverse and whose revenues ranged from $10 million per year to more than $400 million per year. And he ran many of them at the same time.

“I had never run any of those businesses,” Bywater told SSN. “I had never been an HR expert running a large benefits administration business, I had never run a corporate learning company before, I had never run the largest Medicaid business in the country, I had never run the largest child support services business in the country. … And most people would say, ‘How can you do [that] and do it an excellent way if you weren’t raised in that industry?’”

He said that answer is that “the core principles to growing and running an incredible company” are the same from business to business. “How do you attract and motivate people, how do you put the right process in place, the correct strategy, and bring your resources to bear to achieve that strategy, how do you do right by your customers, how do you scale and grow, how do you foster a culture of innovation?” All businesses need to answer those questions to be successful, he said.

Bywater said that 80 percent of any business involves those common principles and the remainder is “the particulars.” He added, “The beautiful thing about Vivint is that they have so many people that know the particulars of security and home automation, they are the experts there. I believe I bring the expertise on how you grow a company.”

Bywater, who also has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Brigham Young University, is in charge of the daily operations of Vivint, “including customer operations, human resources, field service, and supply chain,” the company said in a news release.

Vivint doesn’t just hire from outside the industry. Todd Santiago, formerly president of 2GIG Technologies who also has a Harvard MBA, recently joined Vivint as chief sales officer. 2GIG was acquired by Nortek earlier this year.

“Our executive team is one of the reasons Vivint is a success,” Pedersen said in a prepared statement. “During the 13 years we’ve been in business, Vivint has become one of the fastest growing companies in our industry. I have high expectations that with the talent and drive we’re bringing to the team, the goals we’ve already achieved are just the beginning.”