Business Schools

His Sights Are on Video Telephony


I'm the co-founder and CEO of SightSpeed, an award-winning video-telephony company with a team of 23 people based in Berkeley, Calif. Our software allows consumers to quickly turn their PC or Macintosh (APPL) into an easy-to-use videophone.

SightSpeed's origins spring from the research at Cornell University's renowned DISCOVER Lab in Ithaca, N.Y. Electrical engineering professor Toby Berger and his student protËégé Aron Rosenberg led the research that looked into the core visual communications experience.

The pair identified and quantified how the human eye and brain work together in real-time visual communications. They used the findings to build an optimized software application that treated video and audio the way the human brain actually processes it.

"THE BUSINESS GUY." I met Berger and Rosenberg while pursuing my MBA at the S.C. Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell, and I quickly became involved as "the business guy" who would assist in bringing their innovations to the world. The three of us founded SightSpeed in the spring of 2001.

Rosenberg and I wrote SightSpeed's business plan while still in school. We raised our first investment dollars from BR Ventures, an investment fund run by students at the Johnson school. Upon graduating in 2002, we started to work on our dream full-time, eventually raising a significant amount of money from traditional venture investors.

SightSpeed's offices reside in a converted bread factory. Such hip space can be found only in one of the most unusual communities in the country. I live nearby and find Berkeley a great place to live and work. My short commute is a nice departure from the traffic many people face daily.

Here's my typical day at SightSpeed:

7:30 a.m. -- Out the door and on my way to work.

7:45 a.m. -- In the office and focused on the "overnight status." SightSpeed has a global user community, so our customer-support desk is extremely keen on current events and issues. I do a quick catch-up with the team and then fire up my e-mail to learn what has come my way overnight.

8:30 a.m. -- Status update with our new marketing associate. She is managing SightSpeed online campaigns as well as many of our ongoing customer-outreach efforts. The subscriber numbers continue to grow as the viral base takes hold.

9:00 a.m. -- Coffee with PC World sales representative. She brings us our recently awarded World Class 2005 trophy for producing the best video-messenger software on the market. Over some strong Berkeley-style coffee, we talk about the newest initiatives print advertisers are taking to provide the level of detail and measurement tools currently available only through online advertising.

10:30 a.m. -- A board member and principal investor drops in. He has come up with new marketing ideas and wants to bounce them around together. Since SightSpeed shares a building with our investors, these visits aren't uncommon. Today's topic is how to do a better job of reaching out to deployed soldiers separated from their families. He formulates a plan to give free SightSpeed subscriptions to all deployed military personnel.

11:00 a.m. -- Call with newspaper reporter. SightSpeed has received significant press in equal part due to cool technology and supportive customers who share their stories. I tell the story of our origins, but the real interest is in how people are using SightSpeed to conduct global video calls from coffee shops, cruise ships, and even airplanes.

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