From Sightspeed to Sorenson Media

Larry Kless · April 22, 2009 · Short URL:

A Conversation with Peter Csathy, President and CEO of Sorenson Media, Inc. - Part II

 This part two of my interview with Peter Csathy, CEO and President of Sorenson Media. I spoke with Peter last month two weeks into his new job. In part two he talks about his career, managing virtual teams and what's like in the day in the life of Peter Csathy.

Larry Kless: Now, I was reading; it says that you started as an entertainment lawyer. Is that right?

Peter Csathy: Yeah. An entertainment intellectual property media lawyer way back in the day. Now you're taking me way back.

LK: Way back to where it all began. At what point did you get into the video space?

Peter Csathy: Well, so from the very beginnings, I started off as a lawyer but doing media work. So motion picture music work. And then early in the '90s, I transitioned into in-house to first New Line Cinema, then Savoy, then Universal Studios. So I was in and around the movie space and media space for years and years and gravitated from lawyering to being a business guy. So a business negotiator and then ultimately operations. And then I made the move to the internet world, digital media world in very early 2000 and no looking back since. And this is my fourth company.

LK: How many days now has it been you've been in your position?

Peter Csathy: This is the end of my second week. I was just announced on Monday, but I had a week before. And it's interesting. I feel like I've been here because I know the business well, as you can see from my background. I've been in the digital media world for a long, long time. Too many gray hairs now. Maybe not as much hair as I used to. But so I've run enough companies where I feel very -- I think I have a good sense for what works and what doesn't work. I've made mistakes. I think I know how to avoid those mistakes again because that's what you learn with experience. And as long as you have a great team and a great proposition and foundation to work from, you can do great things together. And we're a passionate group of people. As you can tell, I'm pretty passionate. I'm a big believer. Look, I love what I do. And I wouldn't get into this unless I believe with every core of my being that this thing is going to be big, big, big. And so that's why I'm up-and-running. Up-and-running I think very well because my team helped me in that regard. And we're moving. We're moving forward very aggressively.

LK: And in terms of your position now with Sorenson, did it come together pretty quick? ." Did you start the New Year with the transition or did it come up a lot sooner?

Peter Csathy: Well, I don’t want to get into specifics of timing too much, but it was a natural progression from the very beginning when I learned about the opportunity. I only sold the company in November. We closed the deal in November. And I started in February, so things moved pretty quickly.

LK: And a day in the life of Peter Csathy, what's your day look like?

Peter Csathy: This is kind of a typical day in the life. I have two little kids: six and nine. So what I do is -- I never used to be this way back in the day, but I'm an early morning riser now. So I get up at 5:00 in the morning, and I sit down, have my coffee. I bang out a lot of work in the morning before I hear the pitter-patter of little feet coming down the steps. Have breakfast with my family. Then begin the official workday, although I started before that. And then, for me, it's critical to be home with my family for dinner. Help the kids. Put them to bed. And then I'm back on. And knock it out and kind of do it again. And then what's very important for me, I also try to work in at least three or four days a week of workouts.That's kind of typical. But then that's the non-travel days. But I have teams in both cities. So, of course, I'm traveling, too. And then there's business development. And there's conferences. So it's that kind of world. But I've been doing it for a long time. So, again, it feels very comfortable.

LK: You must in your position just to manage virtual teams use a fair amount of virtual tools, you know, videoconferencing.

Peter Csathy: You know my last company was known as being the best in class with video chat and videoconferencing. And one of my first pronouncements to my teams were, "Okay. Everybody webcams. Immediately." Because we have teams in Salt Lake, and we have teams in San Diego. And the best way, apart from traveling, for getting to know each other and for collaboration is to see each other and do it. And so you may have heard that noise in the background, that ringing noise. That was actually somebody calling me on my video chat application, one of my team members from Salt Lake. So we constantly do that. So it's part of the culture already. And it was such a critical part of the culture in my last company. And it made it home[word].

LK: That's great. I use Skype. I use TokBox. I use Oovoo. I use a lot of different tools. And I was contacted by a grandfather in Florida just the other day who was reading my blog where I talked about the upgrade to Skype 4.0. And I had my mom upgrade it. And it kind of messed up her settings. And I walked her through it and fixed it. And then I put those learnings up on the blog. So the funny thing is is that just yesterday, I was Google chatting with this grandpa from Gmail because he just wanted to make sure it worked before he tried to talk to his son and grandkids.

Peter Csathy: This is what I suggest; my former company won all of the awards. Four times PC Magazine Editor's Choice. Walt Mossberg was a big fan. So you've got to check out Sigthspeed. It beats all of those other ones hands-down when it comes to video. And the state of the art is really So that's the one I would urge you to do yours. And check it out. So it's, all one word. Try that one. I think you'll be quite impressed.

LK: I'll do it. Thanks for the tip. I'd ask you one more question. In terms of some of your proudest achievements, what would you say from a career perspective?

Peter Csathy: Okay. So I'm putting aside family because --

LK: Of course.

Peter Csathy: -- I'm a huge family guy. But apart from that, the biggest achievement for me, Sightspeed was the most satisfying experience. I'm very proud of a number of things. I'm very proud of the team that we assembled there. I'm very proud of the moral that we had and the overall company culture. It was extremely positive. I've never seen such a positive work environment before. And we had a team of about 30 people. We did a lot with a little because we were up against the big guys, and yet, we did win all of the awards. And then ultimately, I'm very proud of the crowning achievement which was having this very successful sale of the company during the market meltdown times because that's almost unheard of and virtually impossible. And the beautiful thing about it is that it was a very positive result for investors and all employees within the company. And so the Sightspeed experience brought it all together.

LK: That's great. I appreciate you sharing some of your personal background and the fact that you're a family guy. I am as well. And that's where it comes from.

End of part two. Stay tuned for part three.

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