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One on One with Vidyo CMO & SVP of Corp. Dev., Ashish Gupta
January 26, 2011 | Kendal Kirby
WRB: Let's start with the question at the top of everyone's list. What drugs are you on? What would inspire you to leave Microsoft for an upstart videoconferencing company like Vidyo?
AG: Drugs? It must be the endorphins that kick in when you get the rare opportunity to be part of a company that is changing the landscape of the entire industry by delivering the kind of innovation and differentiated solutions Vidyo is providing. In its relatively short lifespan, Vidyo has already built a several-year technology lead over its competition and forged strong partnerships with such market leaders as HP, Google and Hitachi. Vidyo has single-handedly re-focused the collective vision and strategy of established legacy players in this industry who are now announcing future products based on technology that Vidyo pioneered since 2005.
Before making my decision to join Vidyo, I examined all aspects of the videoconferencing industry, particularly its evolution over the past 10 years or so. What was evident to me was that Vidyo is the first solution to address and tackle successfully the age-old problem of proprietary and expensive legacy systems that has resulted in islands of collaboration. Because of its innovative approach, Vidyo now has an impressive technology lead over legacy systems and this lead will only increase as customers and partners build unprecedented applications on the Vidyo platform, while benefiting from the cost efficiency gains provided by the Vidyo architecture. For example, in the area of mobile video conferencing, Vidyo's platform is already supporting a wide array of mobile devices, operating systems and applications. Those are just a few of the things that inspired me.
WRB: Exactly what did you do at Microsoft and how long were you there?
AG: I was at Microsoft for 6+ years and was involved in the Microsoft Office, Unified
Communications and Collaboration, Mobile, and Real Time Collaboration teams. Most
recently I was responsible for business development and strategy for the Unified Communications Group and built-out the Lync infrastructure and ecosystem, including key
strategic partnerships with Polycom, HP, Nokia and SAP. Prior to this, I worked on several
strategic initiatives that led up to Microsoft's UC&C solution and the Enterprise mobile
worker vision for Microsoft.
In the Wainhouse Research profile written about Vidyo last December, you stressed the
importance of the Vidyo-HP relationship and how Vidyo's GTM model is closer to an
IP PBX or telephony business model. Well, for almost half a decade at Microsoft, I helped
build the strategy and develop partnerships that enabled the company to address that
market place. This includes a deep partnership with HP to deliver an end-to-end unified
communications and collaboration solution. I look forward to doing the same at Vidyo.
WRB: At Microsoft, you were dealing with a wide range of collaboration issues; at Vidyo
you're really limited to just videoconferencing. How do you feel about that?
AG: At Vidyo, I intend to work on a wide range of strategic partnerships that will accrue to
our overall offering and range, well beyond videoconferencing.
Vidyo's platform for video communications and collaboration is rich and rife with potential.
Think about it as a Lego plate on which new applications (Lego blocks) are added to deliver
innovative new solutions. Vidyo plans to work closely with complementary partners in
many horizontal and vertical markets to create a variety of end-to-end solutions. Take, for
example, the Structural, Architectural and Construction industry - one in which people
often work in distributed environments, and collaboration is key to efficiency. This is one of
many examples - in this case we are working with managers of CAD software, project
management, architectural and construction firms, etc. - to build and deliver end-to-end
solutions that are a logical extension of Vidyo's platform.
WRB: According to the press release, you are CMO and SVP of Corporate Development.
Let's talk about the two pieces, starting with Corp Development. What does this mean at a
company like Vidyo?
AG: There's a two-prong approach to Vidyo's Corporate Development. First, it
encompasses the strategic and tactical aspects of business development where we are
working on a targeted list of strategic partnerships that are complementary to our offering
and go-to -market approach; these will continue the organic growth of our business.
Second, we will keep an eye out for non-organic opportunities. We have the advantage of
doing very well operationally and having a strong vote of confidence from our investors.
WRB: Anything unusual about the CMO job?
AG: Marketing at Vidyo is an important function, as we think we are the market leader
when it comes to the future of video communications and collaboration. As Wainhouse
Research pointed out in its December profile on Vidyo, the company remains a "diamond in
We have attained the status of being the "disruptive technology" innovator in our market;
developing the "next generation" architecture for video communication and collaboration. It
is not often that a company the size of Vidyo gets the opportunity to carry the torch for the
industry and re-establish the customer value proposition. It is good to see that legacy
players are following our lead and the industry is now moving in the direction we
established. Now our challenge is to maintain and extend that leadership position.
I see my job as an incredible opportunity to lead the team that will turn the "rough diamond"
into a sparkling jewel that is recognized as such and valued by the market. To that end, we
will invest substantially to grow both mindshare and market share.
WRB: OK, let's talk about Scalable Video Coding, the technology most closely associated
with Vidyo. It's an ITU standard, so what makes Vidyo stand out among the crowd.
AG: You are correct, H.264/SVC is quickly becoming a well-adopted standard. We are
proud of the role we have played in driving the adoption of the standard by being the first to
deliver a solution that is enabled by this standard. However, the SVC standard does not
differentiate us - it is our architecture gives us the decided edge over other industry
Vidyo's architecture is enabled by the H.264 SVC standard and the core differentiation
comes from the way the VidyoRouter uses this next generation architecture to manage and
deliver unprecedented video communication and collaboration solutions.
The Vidyo architecture and infrastructure eliminates the burden of the costly MCU - used
by legacy solutions - and the negative impact of transcoding. Instead, the VidyoRouter
architecture provides rate and resolution matching for each endpoint while dynamically
adapting to changing bandwidth. This technology is the key advancement in making
natural, high quality videoconferencing universally available over the Internet, 3G, 4G, or
Wi-Fi networks. It allows us to deliver products and technology that no other provider is
able to touch. For example, it is what has enabled us to develop TV quality, multi-party
video communication and collaboration for a wide range of mobile devices.
WRB: Radvision is shipping SVC capabilities today, and Polycom has announced its
intention to have SVC in 2011. In fact, the Polycom announcement mentioned SVC for
Lync in the press release. How will all this shape Vidyo's future?
AG: These SVC vendor announcements not only substantiate our vision and validate that
our differentiated products are winning in the marketplace, but also demonstrate that our
competitors are following in our foot-steps.
Radvision's addition of another codec supported by their MCU affirms the value of SVC,
but does not change the user experience in a multipoint call in terms of additional latency
added and the level of video quality degradation from the transcoding operation.
Polycom announced that they will support SVC in the future and they also stated that
Microsoft will use their SVC in Lync. Both Radvision and Polycom are smart companies
that realize it is the right path to follow in Vidyo's footsteps. We're happy that they have
validated our way of thinking. However, Vidyo's marked advantage is that we are already
delivering products, on a differentiated and patented architecture that utilizes H.264/SVC.
WRB: When multiple vendors have SVC, what are the chances for interoperability before
my grandchildren graduate college?
AG: How old are your grandchildren? I guess it really depends on when other vendors
and legacy players will have support for SVC, since Vidyo already delivers this today.
Vidyo is one of the leaders in providing interoperability based on industry standard
technologies and driving the adoption of these standards. Alex Eleftheriadis, our chief
scientist, is the Chief Editor of the Unified Communications Interoperability Forum's (UCIF)
Task Group on Scalable Video Coding (SVC) that will define H.264 SVC UCIF-compliant
unified communication systems. Vidyo is also leading the effort to add SVC to H.241 which
is in process at the ITU, and the changes to the standard should be ratified by July of this
year. This should address the H.323 signaling interoperability issues. So, we are highly
optimistic that, as the overall videoconferencing industry adopts H.264 SVC as their
primary codec, interoperability will become commonplace.
WRB: So, you've migrated from working for the industry giant to an industry challenger
(Goliath vs. David). What keeps you up at night?
AG: I actually sleep rather well at night - my wife is pretty jealous about that already.
If there's anything that I think about, it is the huge opportunity we have on our hands. We
are on a rocket ship with thrusters that are firing on all fronts. Now it's our responsibility to
ensure that the ship is guided toward the best destination. What concerns me is that every
day we are delayed in reaching an end user, another potential customer may buy a limited
quality solution on an outdated architecture that will not be able to scale to address user
needs or be too expensive to manage for a global and mobile workforce. We need to
make sure that everyone who is looking for the best video communication and collaboration
solution knows about Vidyo's next generation solution and how it is better suited to address
the needs of customers.
Vidyo is fortunate to have a highly differentiated offering and a top-notch team, and we plan
to aggressively pursue this large market opportunity from the front of the pack, and I am
looking forward to a great ride on our industry-changing rocket ship.
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