Recently, Sonic Foundry CEO Gary Weis appeared in the weekly rAVe series, “AV Insider Spotlight,” by Ajish Raju. The series highlights innovative thinkers in the AV industry. Read on for Gary’s industry insights.
1. Describe your journey in the AV industry? How did it start?
Growing up I wanted to be a bomber pilot in the U.S. Air Force but my eyesight disqualified me from a career in the military. Thus, with degrees in both Applied Mathematics and Computer Science, I began my career in sales at IBM. There, I managed a technical account, which nurtured my love of the technology and data-processing side of business. As I gained more knowledge and experience in the data networking space, I held key positions at category leaders such as Sears, IBM and AT&T. I eventually served as COO of IBM Global Network and then as Senior Vice President at AT&T Business Services, where I was responsible for one of the world’s largest data and IP networks that served more than 30,000 businesses and provided Internet access to more than one million people worldwide. During my tenure at these companies, I also served as Chairman of Sonic Foundry, eventually joining the company as CEO in 2011.
2. What do you think are the challenges that are facing a new person who wants to join the industry?
Video content management is a relatively small space within the industries we work across, whether enterprise, health, government, higher education or event management. Because of this, we are often approached by people breaking into the industry who haven’t developed their own technical abilities and hence lack the understanding of the technology and processes needed to succeed day in and day out.
Another challenge for newcomers is understanding and appreciating how — beyond simply a communications solution — video is and can be part of the cultural foundation of a company.
3. What are the positives of working in this industry?
Providing a video management solution that is applicable across industries is incredibly rewarding. It is thrilling to be at the center of advancing video technology in order to bring about true progress across industries — whether it’s the health sector embracing telemedicine or working with higher education institutions to bring education to remote areas of the world.
For example, we work with schools in South Africa. A lack of quality teachers and severe home conditions in rural areas has resulted in some South African provinces having 80% of schools classified as failing. The University of the Free State’s IDEAS Lab in the Distance Education department was challenged to provide support in core subjects to more than 80 schools within the Free State province. The university began using daily live Mediasite webcasts. Pass rates have jumped from 26 percent to 100 percent in some rural South African high school classrooms.
4. What in your opinion would you change in the industry? What are the negatives that are prevalent?
I’ll focus on video in higher education to answer this question. I think the most interesting and valuable evolution would be that educators fully understand the value of video in education and create it as a strategic asset. We’ve got customers, like the University of Leeds, North Carolina State and others, that have made the investment, but we have many other customers who are waiting for proof that video is a good investment. We think as time goes on video cultures on campus will become more prevalent and studies will help prove the value of academic video.
5. Describe your ideal client? What do you wish clients to know before hiring you?
Our ideal client has the foundational knowledge of video content management solutions and can articulate what their needs are from these solutions and services. In an enterprise setting, it is a company that is looking to embrace video solutions beyond the general corporate communications, for onboarding, sales, training, coaching, etc. Within the health industry, going beyond video tutorials and expanding into education, patient services and more.
No matter the industry, Sonic Foundry has an established track record partnering with companies who understand the importance of video, but may not know how to best record, leverage, store and manage these resources for the benefit of their business.
6. If you were going to start over, what would you do differently?
When Sonic Foundry started down the path of steaming video ten years ago we very quickly realized the best way to be successful was to focus on content capture as opposed to content search or content management. Our customers were able to build vast libraries of video content with wall-to-wall capture rooms. We started offering software capture solutions around five years ago. Now our customers not only come to us for capture appliances, but for mobile and personal capture, for video management and for powerful analytics. We have a tool for every job. The only thing I would do different is evolving to software sooner.
7. Describe a typical work day for you. What are your daily disciplines?
Maintaining a regimented daily routine keeps me grounded. I’m focused on getting the job done and having dedication and determination to move Sonic Foundry every day.
My daily routine starts at 4:30am, which is when I start my day Monday through Friday. I drive 2.5 hours into Madison, where Sonic Foundry is headquartered, and leave every evening allowing enough time to get home and have dinner with my wife.
8. How does Sonic Foundry help the industry in terms of growth?
We have brought video content management solutions to over 4,300 customers across 65 countries. At Sonic Foundry, we understand what the customer needs and help them see how our solutions can serve their goals. Based on industry demand over the years, we developed our products to be scalable and flexible solutions. We do this by listening to our customers and incorporating their input as we continually innovate. This has also allowed us to create a sense of community within the industry, one in which companies across categories feel supported as they tap into the power of video to make real progress in their companies and in their space.
This interview first appeared in rAVe here.