MBE Spotlight: VIZIO's Rapid Rise to the Top Founder/CEO William Wang took VIZIO from start-up to $2 billion in 7 years

Southern California Minority Business Development Council, Inc.
December 14, 2009

William Wang had no proven track record when it came to manufacturing televisions.  But that didn't stop him from starting a company focused on creating high performance flat panels with greater efficiency at a lower cost.  That was seven years ago, and today, his business, VIZIO Inc., puts more LCD HDTVs on the market in the U.S. than any other company.

From the beginning, the Irvine-based, SCMBDC-certified company outsourced manufacturing, undercut brand-name prices, held tight margins, kept overhead low and remained committed to its mission -- providing quality products at affordable prices.

"Everyone on the VIZIO team knows we're here to sell affordability and great quality," says Wang, company founder and CEO.  "We're not here to sell a cheap product or have a technology that no one appreciates.  The components we use in our products have to be the best.  We've stayed true to our slogan, 'Where Vision Meets Value,' since Day 1." 

The company also put a premium on customer service, with about half of its 170 employees in customer service and all of its call centers located in the U.S.  Wang says providing quality service is important since consumers are more educated when it comes to purchasing a TV.

"For me, a happy customer is worth more money than anything else...that's how we grow."
                                    - William Wang

"They know what they want in a TV before they enter a store, so the only time consumers need to interact with us is when they have a problem, and unfortunately, electronics can't be 100% problem-free," says Wang, who was born in Taiwan and moved to the U.S. when he was 12.  "Therefore, when they need to call us, we have to give them red-carpet service and that's only available in the U.S.  For me, a happy customer is worth more money than anything else...that's how we grow."

Wang launched the company -- then known as V -- in 2002 after he saw a business opportunity with the U.S. government's mandated conversion to digital TV.  He knew the HDTV market could grow if he made them affordable compared to established brands, such as Sony and Panasonic. 
But the early days of the company were rough.  "When I tried to buy a component from suppliers, I didn't have the skills of my competitors," adds Wang, who has a degree in electrical engineering from USC.  "As a start-up, we didn't come in with millions of dollars; we didn't have any leverage.  I had to build personal relationships."

The company received its big break providing consulting services to Gateway Inc. as the computer company started bringing wide-screen, flat-panel televisions to market.  VIZIO helped Gateway launch an affordable HDTV.  With the Gateway contract in hand, suppliers treated Wang differently.

By forming close partnerships with component suppliers, original design manufacturers and retailers, as well as having the right team in place, the brand was able to open the market to millions of Americans and become the #1 HDTV brand four years later.

With revenues of more than $2 billion, VIZIO products are sold at retailers nationwide, including Costco Wholesale, Sam's Club, Sears, Walmart, Target, and BJ's Wholesale.  The company says it has TVs in 10 million households.

In 2009, VIZIO, nominated by Walmart, received SCMBDC's Winner's Circle award at the Supplier of the Year awards luncheon.  Other honors include the #1 ranking in the Inc. 500 for Top Companies in Computers and Electronics in 2007 and 2008 and Fast Company's Top 10 Most Innovative CE Companies.  Wang also received Orange County Business Journal's Entrepreneur of the Year award.

Wang acknowledges good timing was a factor in the company's success.  When VIZIO started, its competitors weren't focused on providing affordable electronic products.  Also, the digital television conversion was a godsend.

"Our timing was perfect," says Wang, adding, "I've been an entrepreneur since 1990 and I've had good timing and bad.  To be successful, good timing is a must.  If we started the business today with a weak economy, it'd be hard for any start-up to survive."  

Despite the recession, VIZIO is thriving with the company posting 30% growth in sales year over year.  Looking ahead, Wang says VIZIO will expand its products beyond HDTVs and pursue growth opportunities outside the U.S.

"We see ourselves getting bigger...that's been the dream," he adds.

To read more of this article please click here.