When the CEO of one of Canada’s communications giants had his light-bulb moment, he was looking at QuickPlay’s product. BCE Inc.’s George Cope said he truly understood the power of mobile video when he watched the 2010 Winter Olympics on a Bell phone. It was one of the things that led to his company’s purchase of Canada’s largest private broadcaster, CTV, in a deal that helped transform the country’s media industry.
QuickPlay is a Toronto-based company that’s playing a big role in the emerging world of mobile TV. Its data centres have a capacity for millions of videos, and its software allows them to run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. Its focus is on premium content, such as live-streamed FIFA matches and Nickelodeon shows that parents can stream on their iPad to keep kids quiet in the back seat. “I’m not saying we’re going to trump TV...But the convenience of being able to watch what you want is valuable,” says QuickPlay CEO Wayne Purboo.
Employees: 139 Year founded: 2004 Home base: Toronto 2010 revenue: $10 million+ Revenue growth, 2005–2010: 2,185% Number of videos uploaded through QuickPlay’s servers each month: 190,000 Rate at which QuickPlay expects its global head count to grow this year: 50
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Clients include heavyweights such as Rogers, AT&T, RIM and, of course, BCE. Media customers and partners include major networks like ABC, Global, CBC, CBS and MTV, plus a major Asian media company that has yet to be announced.
QuickPlay is making a big push into Asia, where mobile data is cheap and broadcast TV has been available on phones for a long time. But as Purboo puts it, “the quality isn’t there yet.” That’s where he hopes QuickPlay will come in.
According to Purboo, there is a respect for Canadian engineering that helps him sell to international clients. “People think you can’t do this from Toronto, that you have to be in Silicon Valley,” he says. “We definitely have the talent here.”
- You never have enough money to do everything you want. Get used to it.
- The customer is not always right. It’s been hard for QuickPlay to say no to clients when they’re some of the biggest names in the business, but a push to do more YouTube-like user-generated content, to use one example, wasn’t in line with the company’s strategy. “We could have made a lot of money—there were big customers asking for that,” says Purboo. “Our market is in premium content.”
- Agility is more important than vision. For high-tech start-ups, much is made of the need to be visionary, but the industry is changing too fast to get set on a large-scale vision too early. “At best, you can see two years into this market,” Purboo says.