Boiling it Down: 5 CEOs Describe Their Corporate Culture and San Diego’s Status as a Digital Media Cluster

Xconomy Seattle’s editor Greg Huang got this idea going last month when he conducted an informal and wholly anecdotal survey about the startup culture in the woodsy Pacific Northwest. His premise was that you can tell a lot about a company’s corporate culture from its chief executive.

Within a couple of weeks, Xconomy’s founder and editor-in-chief Bob Buderi followed suit with a survey of corporate culture in Boston’s startup community (and based on Bob’s endorsement, may I just take this opportunity to say this is terrific idea!)

To make this a trifecta of corporate culture insights, I followed the examples set in Seattle and Boston by contacting some San Diego CEOs to ask them to describe the corporate culture at their companies in a single word. In a variation on a theme—what I like to think of as a fugue in our continuing coverage of technology innovation—I chose San Diego CEOs whose business is focused on digital television and video. It is an industry that has been subject to fast and furious changes, which will likely continue for the foreseeable future.

In another twist, I asked each CEO if they think there are enough TV-and-video technology companies in San Diego to constitute a cluster or even a mini-cluster of innovation. Technology clusters, defined by Harvard University’s Michael Porter as geographic concentrations of interconnected companies, specialized suppliers, service providers, and associated research institutions, have become a touchstone for promoting prosperity as well as advancing innovation in specific fields.

Packet Video (San Diego)

CEO: James C. Brailean
Culture: “Innovative.”
Comments: Brailean responded to my journalistic lob with a volley of innovations that Packet Video has introduced since 1998, when he says the software developer for wireless media was the first to demonstrate video on a handset. “PV has been out in front of several of the key trends in mobile multimedia over the last decade.”

“We do have a significant cluster,” Brailean says. “It may not seem like it, since we are focused on different aspects of digital video. However, we all have compression, transmission, and managing digital video at our core…The move to digital video was driven by the cable and satellite industries in the early 90s. Both industries have had a strong presence in San Diego, with General Instrument and ViaSat.” He would add ViaSat and Motorola, which acquired General Instrument, to the list of digital TV and video specialists in San Diego.

Veoh Networks (San Diego)

CEO: Dmitry Shapiro
Culture: “Love.”
Comments: The ever-unorthodox Shapiro explained his summation of Veoh’s corporate culture by saying: “Love what you are working on, Love who you work with, Love to innovate and make people’s lives better, Love to surprise your fellow man, Love to inspire creativity, Love to connect people together, Love!”

As for a video cluster, Shapiro says, “San Diego has some of the finest minds in the country… So it is no coincidence that you will find clusters of all kinds of companies here…I do agree that we have some of the more interesting video companies in town, DivX, Packet, Sorenson, (and Veoh) are significant players.”

DivX (San Diego)

CEO: Kevin Hell
Culture: “Open.”
Comment: Hell describes DivX as “an open community rich with culture and informed by creativity, intelligence, and passion for all that is possible with digital media.” The company’s employees work in an open space, and not even CEO Hell has an office. “This open way of thinking goes back to the creation of DivX technology, where we embraced the open nature of the Internet to create a passionate community of hundreds of millions of consumers.”

On San Diego as a cluster, Hell says that as a great place to live, San Diego just seems to attract entrepreneurial-minded individuals. Says he, “digital media is a cutting-edge industry, and many industries over time have seen their greatest technology advancements in small geographic clusters.” Once a small cluster gets started, Hell says CEOs build on the best local talent and “convince everyone else to move here.” He would add and MusicMatch to the list because of their influence on digital media here.

Sorenson Media (Carlsbad, CA)

CEO: Peter Csathy
Culture: “Entrepreneurial.”
Comment: (No comment.)

On the cluster question, Csathy says, “San Diego has a significant tech and digital media talent pool, and the community has become a hub for digital media activities. As a result of major digital media successes here and proven talent in San Diego (including MusicMatch, DivX and SightSpeed) more and more venture capital investment is made in the area and this leads to further successes—and, yes, this is a significant cluster of online video activity.”

VMIX Media (San Diego)

CEO: Mike Glickenhaus
Culture: “I wish I could come up with one word, but I really can’t.”
Comment: Glickenhaus describes VMIX as “a blend of technologists and media and marketers. To have a successful business you need to not only develop strong technology, but have the ability to show clients how to effectively leverage that technology for their business.”

As a cluster of video technologies: “While the companies you mention are in the general sector, each company is really very different in what they are all about. While it may seem that there are a lot of companies based in San Diego, I don’t really get that sense…” Glickenhaus adds that San Diego has a strong overall tech community, so certain advances spur growth in certain sectors. “The continued growth of broadband connectivity has allowed the general consumption of online video to explode.”

Bruce V. Bigelow was the editor of Xconomy San Diego from 2008 to 2018. Read more about his life and work here. Follow @bvbigelow

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