This is the third of a three part interview I conducted with Peter Csathy, CEO and President of Sorenson Media which took place last month shortly after Sorenson Media announced significant expansion into San Diego. In this interview Peter describes how in the midst of the current economic downturn his industry-leading digital media solutions company will open significant employment opportunities in both San Diego, which will now serve as the central hub for the company’s business operations and its existing Salt Lake City, Utah, location as it expands services and accelerates its growth in the burgeoning online video market. Sorenson Media is actively looking to significantly expand its current San Diego office location to accommodate anticipated growth. The staff is expected to triple in size within one year. For more information about employment opportunities at Sorenson Media in both the San Diego and Salt Lake City offices, visit: http://www.sorensonmedia.com/jobs/.
Larry Kless: So this announcement is less than a week old. And what can you say about it? How did it come about, the expansion in San Diego and then also in Salt Lake? It seems you're pretty new to your position there. Has it been about a month?
Peter Csathy: Yeah. I just completed my first month. So I'm a grizzled veteran already. Well, obviously, we have this core talented team that has done great things. And so as we look to expand, which we will be doing, taking our base of what we do today and expanding it significantly. And more details of that, as I think we talked about last time, will be forthcoming in the not too distant future. But, obviously, we have to expand the team. The company hired me to aggressively expand the company in terms of build its business beyond what it is already today, and we've been profitable for years already. And to do that, of course, we need more developers. We need more on the sales side, on the marketing side. So across the board talent. And when you look at what we do, digital media, certainly Southern California is more in the heart of digital media. And so it's a natural expansion for us from a talent pool perspective but also from being near many of our important customers. And so from a geographic and just easy to serve them, there's a whole host of reasons why we're doing that. But the great thing is that it's going to be in both office locations. What we announced, of course, is the expansion. And we expect to triple our size in the San Diego office in the next year. And so that's where we are.
LK: And those positions are -- I looked over them -- from your blog, I saw that they're primarily engineering, marketing, sales and developers.
Peter Csathy: Yes. It's pretty much across the board. So we need good people across the board to augment the team that we already have today. It's a nice story in that here it is in these crazy, crazy times and everybody's doom and glooming, understandably because it's crazy out there. But we're in expansion mode.
LK: That is a great story. And so from your perspective, do you see that as a giving back to the community there? Digging in to the local talent pool? How's it been since the announcement just in terms of the reception from the community as a whole and then also just applicants?
Peter Csathy: Well, I think it's exciting. It is a nice bit of good news amid all of the doom that's out there. And so certainly we've got a lot of press in all of the biggest publications down here in San Diego. So the San Diego Union Tribune ran a story about it over the weekend. The San Diego Business Journal, a major story. So across the board, it's being received very well for that reason. And then in terms of just applicants which is critical too, we're getting a slew of applications coming in across the board as you can imagine. We're getting talent kind of across the board in Southern California, but also we're getting a lot of in and around the Utah area as well. I haven't seen all of the resumes, but I've seen certainly a number of them. And speaking of San Diego alone, there are a lot from in and around the San Diego region. So you have Orange County. You have L.A.. You have San Diego itself proper. And they're a lot of seasoned folks. There's a lot of talent out there.
LK: How much are you going to play into making any decisions about hiring?
Peter Csathy: Well, I take a pretty active role in a number of things. Certainly, we're officially small still. Every hire, essentially, we want to have consensus because these are critical players for the team as we build this company. And so we're looking for all kinds of things. We want not only the raw talent, but you want the passion that we all have and the sense of team, really being team-oriented. And also very self-sufficient, self-starters. By the way, and all of that sounds like obvious things, but it's not easy to find.
LK: I would think so. Well, it is really a great story because, like you said, in such economic times, you don't hear about expansion. You hear about startups getting funding for a variety of different online video or having some sort of Facebook widget or this or that. But for a company like yours to aggressively expand in those areas --
Peter Csathy: And what enables us to do that, and this is a very important and interesting piece of the story for this company, is that we're not a startup. We've been around for a long time. We're a profitable business. We've been profitable for a number of years. And so we have a very healthy balance sheet. We have a very strong balance sheet. So we're a rock solid, financially strong company. And that's very unique. I shouldn't say very unique. There are some other companies out there. But it's quite unique in and around our space. It gives us the ability to now we're aggressively growing so we can do this and it's not a shot in the dark.
LK: So what's the timetable to get these positions filled and kind of move on this yet to be said expansion?
Peter Csathy: Well, what I've alluded to is going to see the light of day sooner rather than later. And I can't get more specific than that, as much as I'd like to. In terms of the hiring, you saw all the job reqs that we talked about online right now. And as soon as we have the talent, we're ready to lock-n-load. It's a top priority to this company. We want to close them. And so we're interviewing, as you could imagine, rapidly. And we need to get people in here.
LK: And then will this be phased? Is this like the first phase? Because you said you're going to triple your size.
Peter Csathy: Yes. In the San Diego office, we're looking to triple that within a year. That's the plan. And so sure, the wave that we see right now, this is what we're hiring for now. And then you go from there. I think that you'll find many of the things that we're doing interesting. There's a lot of stuff in the works. And this isn't just promising things that never come to light. There are a lot of things that are in the works as we speak.
LK: Excellent. And what have you seen since we last talked? I've checked out your blog. We've had -- just switch gears -- South by Southwest took place. Cisco announced more of their world domination plans. Just off your blog, you noted about IMDB, their plans to stream every single movie.
Peter Csathy: Yes. And that was announced at South by Southwest. Look, I think that what they're announcing, as I said in my blog, it's audacious. It's ambitious. It's beyond ambitious. Is it going to happen? Who knows if it's going to happen? But I love the fact that they're looking big. IMDB is almost this quiet company that is -- I don't know how they are from a financial standpoint, but they're a well-respected company. So that's interesting. I thought Cisco's getting further into the consumer space with the Flip, the Flip video cam, I thought that was an interesting purchase. I don't know. To me, $590 million, that was quite shocking to me. I mean that's very interesting. I don’t know what the valuation is based on. But that's a spicy meatball. I mean that's as much as News Corp paid for MySpace.
LK: And they had only raised 67 million total for their whole life of their company.
Peter Csathy: It's a nice return for the V.C.'s involved. So it's interesting to me; $590 million, I know I was talking about that before. But that's quite a price tag. What's huge is about it is that I guess for me, you're looking at the price tag and, as I said, it's what they paid for MySpace.
LK: What do you think is next just overall with online video? We previously talked about challenges, where things are going, but just in the short-term, just from where you're sitting, CEO and President of Sorenson Media.
Peter Csathy: Where does it go next? Online video, the experience itself is meant for businesses who serve it up and consumers or individuals. But it's already a significant part of people's lives. I think it's something like 2.5 hours for the average internet user who watches video. It's something like 2.5 hours of video on a monthly basis now. That's still so early. And what I see next is there are certain things like going from the capture phase of video to then getting into the workflow of encoding it, publishing, hosting, all of that. All of that is still too complex. And it has to be much easier. And that's what you'll see a lot of focus on, I think, ease of use. As well as the quality, of course. HD quality is something we've been focused on here at the company. And then consumers, it's just more and more viewing of video. More and more comfort. And it'll just become even more ubiquitous today. And then for companies of all sizes, it's all going that day whether it's selling through video. So meaning that you have products you can sell and you can showcase then the video in a way that you can't otherwise do things or community around products and you can do that with video, too. And so it's just a deeper immersion into people's lives and then easier to use. So it's intuitive whether it's from the capture and also just from the experiencing of it.
LK: You're so right about that too because right now YouTube, they're the market leader in terms of being the destination site with 100 million views in the US alone last month. But Hulu is approaching. And there's other sites, TV.com and the wild success of the NCAAs. I don't know if you're a college basketball guy, but it's pretty incredible to see the sports industry take this step finally into online delivery and that live experience. It's been just in the last couple of years, each one of the major players has entered the field and offered this blended approach to the multi-screen approach.
Peter Csathy: Well, sure. And the NCAA is a great example of how deeply immersive this experience is and how it's become everyday. It's not just early adaptors now. It's become very mainstream.
LK: They could watch it on the phone. They could get it online.
Peter Csathy: Look at it from the content provider's perspective. I know there's a lot of talk all the time, again, of doom and gloom about what all these new technologies mean for content providers and how they can monetize and what it's taking away. And it's ruining their existing business models. But think about the ultimate opportunity. Once people get their arms around how to monetize effectively, now it's getting content in the hands of viewers when they want it, how they want it, wherever they want it. So now there's many more immersive ways to get your content in front of people who value it. And when the choices are unlimited like that, ultimately you're going to be able to monetize it more significantly. So I think that's for the content providers, too. You've got to be very bullish long-term.
End of part three of interview series.
For more from Peter Csathy: Check out his blog: Digital Media Update
March 25, 2009 — Streaming Media Podcast Episode #24: Sorenson Media Jan Ozer speaks with Peter Csathy, the new president of Sorenson Media, about the company's plans for expansion and new updates to Sorenson Squeeze coming in Q2. Listen now
Company Description Sorenson Media (http://www.sorensonmedia.com/) is the global leader in video compression technology. The company's innovative encoding applications and award-winning video delivery solutions enable users to quickly and affordably deliver quality digital video files over the Internet. Sorenson Media's video streaming technology is used on more than 800 million computers worldwide. Sorenson Squeeze has garnered many major industry awards, including Macworld Best of Show and Video Systems 2004 Vanguard Award, and the firm's compression codecs are licensed by a host of Fortune 500 companies.