This is Part 5 of a six-part interview series with FreeAxez CEO Earl Geertgens on the history for FreeAxez, Gridd, building design, cable management, the evolution of raised floors, and the future of flooring.
FreeAxez: History of the Company
For over 20 years, FreeAxez has been the leading innovator, developer, and manufacturer of adaptive cable management systems. Their award-winning Adaptive Cable Management system has transformed the cable management/access floor industry. The company is redesigning how successful corporations manage the ever-changing needs of high-performance buildings.
We continue our interview with Earl Geertgens as he talks about the history of FreeAxez and what makes his company unique.
Interviewer: What/who competes with Gridd? What differentiates Gridd from the competition and what is the value proposition?
Earl: There’s no real Coke and Pepsi competitor with us. I say that because GSA [General Services Administration], an agency of the federal government, has established that there’s nothing equal to FreeAxez, Gridd or GriddPower in the marketplace.
There are too many differentiators that place our product in a different classification of product which, in our eyes, nullifies any product competition.
We’re the only system that’s all steel. Everybody else in the low-profile environment has a plastic end or particleboard involved in what they make. They are combustible and can burn.
In some municipalities like New York City, Chicago, Lost Angeles, you can’t install those other systems. We’re the only floor in the world that’s UL-listed. We’re also listed in GreenSpec, a British agency that identifies and endorses green building products. You can run non-plenum-rated cable on the floor. The list of differentiators goes on.
I don’t mean to say that we don’t have any competition at all, but there’s no day-in and day-out competitor with us. People will compare us to those plastic and particleboard systems, but looking at them side by side, no one would reasonably consider them our equals or competitors.
With a post and panel floor, that system is a 42-pound panel, so you’re talking about 14 pounds per square foot. You are clearly talking about a need for that super-heavy panel, sealed airspace and then a sprinkler system underneath it. It’s based upon that archaic design that I referred to before as a traditional raised floor for computer rooms.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about some of the industry awards your product line has received.
Earl: The “Best in NeoCon” award was very, very significant.
But the largest cabling industry event in the country, and possibly in the world, is held in Las Vegas each year. It’s the second-largest event after the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas every year. It’s called Infocom, which is from the International Conference on Computer Communications. It literally has all three convention centers in Las Vegas filled at the same time for a week. We won “Best of Show” there about five years ago—the first year we ever went to it. Those were two very significant awards for us.
Interviewer: What is your vision for FreeAxez?
Earl: We’re not sitting around looking for anybody to tell us what we should be doing. We’re not looking for ideas to come from competitors or anything like that. We are innovators to our core. Our vision is one, in the literal sense: Always looking ahead.
Interviewer: What do you mean by best practices and 30-year promise?
Earl: When we refer to best practices, we mean we’ll come back to every project 90 days after the client’s move-in date. The purpose of that best practice has to do with teaching the facility manager, the facilities team, and the IT people—these aren’t the construction people. By that point, the construction people moved on to the next construction site.
The people we’re visiting are those who have to manage the facility for the next 10, 20, 30 years. As a result, we now have to start over again, almost like the movie Groundhog Day, to teach a new group of people what this thing is all about.
And 30-year promise is something we recognized about 15 years ago, that we were making a very long-term promise when we were sharing our system with people—that our system is going to be able to move and groove with them as things change.
The FreeAxez Award-Winning Adaptive Cable Management System
- NeoCon (2004): Winner of ‘Best of NeoCon Gold’ in the category of Building Technology
- NeoCon (2014): Winner of ‘Best of NeoCon Gold’ in the category of Building Technology
- Infocom (2014): Winner of ‘Best In Show’
In our next and final installment of our CEO Spotlight, Earl Geertgens will talk a little about the outlook for the industry and the technology landscape for the future.