BILL ROBERTS, CEO OF NOBAL - INTERVIEW WITH WBM TOP 100 INNOVATION CEO
BILL ROBERTS, CEO OF NOBAL TECHNOLOGIES INC. HAS BEEN SELECTED BY THE JUDGES OF WORLD BIZ MAGAZINE'S ANNUAL AWARDS TO BE A RECIPIENT OF THE TOP 100 CEOS IN INNOVATION AWARD 2021. THIS SELECTION FOLLOWS A STRINGENT PROCESS THAT EVALUATED OVER 40,000 NOMINEES TO SELECT THE EXCLUSIVE LIST OF 100 WINNERS.
Bill Roberts has an entrepreneurial business history, leading several companies to remarkable success dating back to 1999. As partner and COO with Construction Software Technologies, an early-stage web-based applications iSQFT that continues today with ~$50M USD revenues. As founder and managing director of RSR Engineering, a company focused on building commissioning. As the founder and president of Stor edge Self Storage, based in Calgary, expanding through western Canada, until selling the company in 2007 ~$70M. Starting a nation wide self-storage company; Real Storage, building and consolidating the sector, with operations from British Columbia to Ontario, converting to a private trust and guiding the disposition to Storage Vault in 2019 ~$275M. Purchasing Calgary Archives Corp. a records management provider, over 4 years increased gross revenues by ~230%, in 2018 consolidated the sector and expanded across the country, renamed the national company to Innovative Records Systems Corp. and sold to U.S.-based Access Information Management ~$85M.
Currently the CEO of Calgary based NOBAL Technologies Inc., Bill joined the organization in August 2020. NOBAL is an interactive AI, VR hardware and software company disrupting the retail sector by merging bricks and mortar with digital. Bill is expanding the iMirror solution to create an interactive digital experience in several sectors, near term primary focus is retail and hospitality.
"We’re driven by providing solutions that help everyone. It’s not necessarily about creating something ‘disruptive,’ it may very well be disruptive as a by-product of our solution(s), It’s about doing things better, more efficiently, in our four primary focus sectors: retail, hospitality, home and medical services."
Tell us about NOBAL and its mission.
We’re driven by providing solutions that help everyone. It’s not necessarily about creating something ‘disruptive,’ it may very well be disruptive as a by-product of our solution(s), It’s about doing things better, more efficiently, in our four primary focus sectors: retail, hospitality, home and medical services.
Our interactive mirrors solve some of the major challenges businesses in the retail and hospitality industries are faced with. We’re enhancing the entire customer and client experience from end to end.
So everything that a consumer and business cares about–whether that’s convenience, greater product selection, social influences, or price–are all uniquely channelled into one platform. That’s the kind of solution that puts the user’s experience first.
In retail, we want to give businesses the tools to enhance their operations and the power to control their messaging for their shoppers.
Ultimately, having the software that fields exactly what customers want, from a specific size and colour to paying directly on the mirror, increases sales, customer satisfaction and boosts brand loyalty. Through our discovery process we guide our client to develop what their vision of an experiential journey would be for their customers, ultimately building brand loyalty.
Everything you need is in one place. And if a product isn’t in stock, customers can access the retailer’s endless aisle, this is where the omnichannel comes in, put in their address and get items sent to them directly. As a retailer, you don’t lose that sale as you typically would if inventory isn't available on-hand, or you require the customer to leave and go on-line.
In the hospitality sector, there are two impacts, one is the lobby experience and the second is the guest room experience. For the lobby experience, guests can check in and out of the lobby virtually, scroll through food menus, browse events, and book reservations and shop online, all through the iMirror.
For the guest room experience, there is the guest experience and then hotel operational experience. A guest can scroll through dinning/beverage choices – see what they really look like. They can shop, book events, reserve services and use their personal fitness subscription for an in-room workout. Operations can use the in-room iMirror for notifications, environment monitoring, ordering, trouble shooting. There’s no need to wait in line or pick up the phone. This user-driven experience gives guests the personalization, convenience, and control to make their stay even more enjoyable.
Why is this great timing for iMirror to be adopted by NOBAL's focus sectors.
Our solutions are timed perfectly, the pandemic placed societies in isolation. We all had to navigate a greater use of digital technology, in some cases overwhelming the internet. Our solution falls in line with the natural progression of people learning to utilize the internet / technology and digital presence and now relying on it.
COVID-19 took what we were already doing before and exacerbated it, making digital solutions larger than life. Today, people have this expectation of accessing and attaining products, services and information near instantly. Consumers are demanding a greater selection of products to suit their needs and speed at their fingertips.
It also speaks to the generational changes that are happening. The shift in buying behaviour is training multiple generations on what to buy and how to buy it but mostly on the consumers terms.
You have some demographics that will buy nearly the same things every week–, same groceries, shop at the same stores. But then you have other groups who are more influenced by choice or optionality.
For example, my granddaughter has half a dozen role models to follow among my family members, which exposes her to more brands and clothing than ever.
By the age of six, a child will have essentially 6 parents (possibly two sets of grandparents and the parents) buying for them, they’ll be so attuned to brands that these brands will be at the fingertips of the rising consumer driven by digital presence. How all industries adapt will play a part in their success.
If retailers aren’t prepared to make the shift for the up-and-coming consumer, then they’re not prepared for their business to grow. The ability to offer an omnichannel experience–access to products on store shelves and online–is what will make retailers successful.
"I’m motivated by achieving something others haven’t or aren’t interested in solving. So the more challenges there are, the better."
You have an extensive track record of successful entrepreneurship, what drives you?
I’m motivated by achieving something others haven’t or aren’t interested in solving. So the more challenges there are, the better.
In the tech world, there are many young people that I can learn from, and I have kind of my own “school” here with my team. This young vibrant smart generation has something to teach us, I look to learn from them.
Giving back, sharing my experiences, guiding people, mentoring helping the people around me grow. Engaging with different people and coming together to succeed not only excites me, but puts the world in a better place too.
What technologies do you expect will transform business in the coming decade?
Oh, there’ll be tons! Tech is all about making things more cost-effective while creating a better outcome than what’s currently offered, no matter the industry.
Cars, batteries, robotics–all these things and more will change how things are done. Technology offers an opportunity to refocus the workforce and re-energizing our talent elsewhere.
We’ll still need all these people to work, but just doing different things. The ancillary aspects of tech can create a significant impact. The common thread here is how do we make life better and drive value?
I can’t add years to my life, but I can add life to my years. Technology has every capacity to make things more enjoyable. The user experience needs to be pleasurable, and easy for greater adoption.
"In the retail sector, we’re seeing the global shift from just brick and mortar to brick-and-mortar merging with digital. Every day, we experience that with the clients we work with in Dubai, England, United States, Canada, and more."
What is the biggest shift you are seeing in retail?
In the retail sector, we’re seeing the global shift from just brick and mortar to brick-and-mortar merging with digital. Every day, we experience that with the clients we work with in Dubai, England, United States, Canada, and more.
Technology has no geographic boundaries or limitations when it comes to the sector or industry.
What excites you about NOBAL and what are some of its completed milestones?
Plain and simple, I love providing value for clients and helping them solve real problems.
At this stage, with NOBAL’s intelligent mirrors, we’re ahead of the curve. We’ve put in the leg-work, tested the market, and have developed a modern device that checks off all the boxes in the retail and hospitality spaces. We have evolved the product to a commercialized state, with many uses.
We’ve created an omnichannel platform that ties together all the highlights of brick-and-mortar shopping and interactions with today’s digital preferences. So the future is nothing but bright.
What are some of the external challenges you have to keep an eye on?
There are definitely a few to keep tabs on, like navigating production and supply chain.
Having conversations on whether we want to manufacture closer to home or go abroad is a big decision, especially as we scale. We must consider how to minimize delivery times and source reliable people.
We’re experiencing hockey-stick growth and need to have the right collaboration and exposure to our team, our clients, and the industries we are active in. We charge the day with a “sense of urgency” but, we really focus on “starting with the end in mind”.
Right now, our team composition is regionally diverse. Although our home base is in Calgary, we have some folks in Montreal, others in Atlanta, and we’re looking to expand our London and Asia-Pacific footprint.
NOBAL is driven by the challenge because we have the bench strength, intelligence, tenacity, and experience, to work through any vision to the end.
As a team, we take a problem first, solutions later approach, which is the hallmark of mavericks and innovators. This is why we can work with any customer, even those who want to get their hands dirty because the performance expectations of our clients are seen as another opportunity to create something only NOBAL is willing and able to do.
This is what is different about us. Our challenge accepted mindset, our desire to lead the interactive mirror space one solution, one customer at a time.