Monday January 19, 2015 0 comments
By Amy Kegg
GOLDEN -- Imagine your product is hugely successful. It powers the majority of your industry and continues to grow exponentially -- yet seemingly no one knows your name.
This is the happy conundrum a Golden-based technology company loves to have. Wowza Media Systems can boast that 45 percent of Content Delivery Networks, or CDNs use their technology. Of the top 25 national universities, 85 percent use Wowza to stream educational videos to their students. You'll find Wowza driving more than 60 percent of the top enterprise video products, and tons of OEM businesses build Wowza into their products.
But almost no one -- save industry insiders -- knows their name.
"I was speaking with an industry analyst just the other day, and he told me 'Wowza just isn't that interesting,'" said CEO David Stubenvoll. "My heart just sank. Because, of course, we think it's incredibly interesting. But when the analyst named other companies he thought did the same thing, they were all customers of ours."
Founded in 2005, the company recently made a small acquisition of a company in Berlin, has a satellite office in Mountain View, Calif., and employs about 80 people across the globe - nearly doubling its employee base in 2014. Still, Wowza' founders -- Stubenvoll and CTO Charlie Good -- don't mind flying under the radar, especially when it's beneath the shadow of mega-brands such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft - all of whom have joined the Works With Wowza partner program. They're just happy to provide a solution to an issue they stumbled across when they first decided to collaborate on a business of their own.
Stubenvoll and Good met when they were both working on a seed project for Adobe. "As Charlie jokes, it was love at first sight," says Stubenvoll. While the project was eventually cancelled, the experience motivated the duo to go out on their own. "We realized we wanted to work together and not be constrained by the corporate world," he said.
Stubenvoll was no stranger to entrepreneurial adventures, having launched four other startups prior to Wowza. Still, they didn't really have a business plan.
"We decided a way to figure out what business to be in is to be in business first. So, we jumped into it arbitrarily - that was our business plan," Stubenvoll said. "We agreed that if we couldn't figure out how to support a Starbucks habit after three months, we'd pivot to something else."
Initially, they started a video blog platform, then they started experimenting with a video messaging widget, but that went nowhere. What it did lead to was the discovery that existing video-serving tools were inadequate.
By 2007, Wowza launched a beta version of its media-streaming server software and more than 700 users worldwide tested it for them. The response was encouraging. Today, 60 percent of the leading enterprise video content management companies -- as rated by Gartner Magic Quadrant -- use Wowza.
As demand for video on computers, tablets and smartphones continues to boom, Stubenvoll offers five predictions for the media-streaming industry:
1: Content owners will bypass distributors, linking directly to the consumer. For example, HBO Go will soon offer video availability without the need for a cable subscription.
2: Live streaming will continue to grow, particularly in live sporting events. Stubenvoll offers the example of the 2014 Summer Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. This, he believes will separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to media-streaming technology.
"Live is very hard," he says. "It's unforgiving. Either it's right -- right now -- or it's not going to work. You get one shot with live, and we happen to be very good at it."
3: The demand for mobile video will continue to multiply, as more and more users demand more video served to their tablets and their smartphones.
4: Businesses will increasingly adopt video infrastructures served from the cloud. This will allow them to conduct more and more business through online video streaming, whether it's for on-demand training videos, video chats or live broadcasting the corporate quarterly meeting to offices across the globe.
5: Education will trend to what's known as a flipped classroom. This is where students watch a lecture via video streaming and then attend class for discussion or to conduct a lab assignment.
In fact, one of Wowza's highly satisfied customers is Ron Kozlowski, director of the BioMedia Lab in the School of Biology and Ecology at the University of Maine. Kozlowski found Wowza to be the solution to the question of how to reliably deliver more than three terabytes of instructional videos.
Kozlowski discovered Wowza was better and far cheaper than the costly upgrade he was facing with a system he was only semi-satisfied with. As word spread through the university of Wowza's reliability and ease of use, other departments wanted to use it.
Wowza now supports the communications department as well, allowing students to view their presentations and grade themselves on their own performance. Professors are using it to hold "virtual office hours," meeting with students in a video chat rather than a constrained time and place.
"It's incredible," Kozlowski said. "From the
As for advice for the aspiring entrepreneur, Stubenvoll and Good recommend finding a co-founder you can rely on and trust. Be willing to abandon bad ideas, but stick to your gut. Be confident, yet humble - then dig in and make it happen. And, of course, as Stubenvoll says, "Making sure your customers are successful is the best way to ensure your own success."
About Wowza Media Systems
Wowza Media Systems, LLC (www.wowza.com) helps organizations harness the power of streaming by reducing the complexities of audio and video delivery to any device anywhere. Organizations in more than 150 countries count on innovative and award-winning Wowza software to build, deploy, and manage customized streaming solutions that deliver high-quality and engaging live and on-demand experiences. Wowza is privately held, with offices in Golden and Mountain View, California.