VMIX today announced that Patrick Burns, right, had been named CEO and president of the online video platform, taking over for radio industry veteran Mike Glickenhaus, who had been at the helm since May 2008.
Burns is new to the online video industry, but he has 20 years of experience working with venture-backed companies and startups, and also with mega-companies like Xerox and Bechtel. He was a member of Ford Motor Company's second generation of "Whiz Kids," and describes himself as a team builder who's tough, but fair.
Burns is taking over a company that has a solid platform and a growing customer base, but one that's looking to differentiate itself from the 60-some companies in the space. His focus: Growth and continued innovation. And, he'll likely soon be talking with the company's VC backers for another round of funding, although he declined to discuss that aspect.
Board member Hatch Graham said Burns is "known for his ability to draw out the best in organizations and people, and we are confident that his experience leading Fortune 100 and top global companies in a variety of industries will take VMIX's technology where it is so capable of going."
VMIX CTO and co-founder Greg Kostello said he's looking forward to Burns moving the company forward and making it an agile player in a changing space.
Burns took time out of his day to talk with FierceOnlineVideo and described his first two weeks at the company as feeling as though he was "trying to stir the ocean with a spoon."
Why'd VMIX hire Pat Burns ?
"I'm here because of the expansion of VMIX. Mike did a good job for us; he's great in media and all of that and made a lot of contributions here and took us a long way down the road. But it was the board's opinion that we're expanding into a whole lot of other areas--we want to keep our media, that's dominant in what we're doing--but we're expanding into other areas, into the international arena and I've had a lot of expertise in growing companies, particularly growing companies to the next level. The fun thing here for me is that this is such an amazing technology, they're such a brilliant group, just extraordinary. Every one of them is a world class player, so it's a privilege to get to do this."
So, define your mission.
"My mission is that the company is facing some pretty rapid growth. We are being pursued by a lot of other verticals and I think the board felt that my experience is pretty broad. I've worked with the venture community for so many years that they just felt that they would be very comfortable for me getting us across the white water of this sort of an expansion, because it's just what I do. I think that what happens in companies, in the really successful ones, is that you go though periods, different stages of a company, and it takes different skill sets from the senior management group to get across those areas. I've kind of done all of those stages, so it gives us a little bit different perspective and bandwidth that wasn't necessarily here and that's both a blessing and a curse.
"That really was the thinking process. The board isn't worried about the thinking process across these vectors, they know there won't be something that presents itself that the CEO won't be prepared to deal with. That's the real hard truth."
What are the first priorities you have?
"I think we have to have a basic change in approach and culture. We need an emphasis on a very close--and tightly knit and expanding--team effort where we have a much more highly integrated team effort. We have a lot of specialties. We have a lot of people that are extremely talented in their areas, and so we need to be making sure there is a very fluid and agile interaction in those areas. That's my expertise and that's what I'll be doing. It'll be a folding through of process and procedure and interaction that builds a very highly effective team effort.
"We have to get our culture right for the sort of growth we expect before we begin rapid hiring and expansion. We have to be poised to do that right so that we absorb people correctly. Plus some changes in our entire marketing effort. I want it to be very supportive of Bill (Curci, VMIX's VP of marketing) and things that he's had on the back burner that he wants to really flare up and get out there."
Is there a timeline?
"It's a linear thing, the timeline is perpetuity. You continue to grow your company and expand and reinvent yourselves as you get to the next plateaus, the next levels.
"Here's the thing: Media is what it's all about. The applications of video is simply nothing more than an expansion of what radio has done for us everywhere, and what newspapers have done for us everywhere; and now we have found new vehicles for distributing knowledge and information and for interaction and socializing. We have such an appetite for consuming information, some of it's critical, some of it's knowledge and some of it's just Facebook-esque.
"It's going to be a very interesting ride and I see it continuing for some time."
How does your experience relate to online video? How much familiarity do you have with it?
"Like a lot of people I think most of the modalities that are using video, I've been engaged in, whether it's been advertising, distribution of information, for training purposes, for HR purposes or just general information transfer."
You come from outside the industry. Online video is maturing as an industry segment. Will there be more of an influx of professional managers who may not be as well versed in the technical aspects of the segment now?
"Yes. We have the technical people. But it's not just in this particular segment, it's true in many areas.
"We have technical people here that are amazing. The trick is--so we have all of this--what's the application? How does it fit into business models, where? How does this company make money doing what we do? That's the piece that you've gotta drop in there. That's what I provide.
"It isn't important that I'm a technical guru in this. What is important is that I'm a good businessman, I see the applications and I can talk story to the people that make the purchasing decisions as to how this fits across their business proposition, how it makes them money so that I get a bite of the apple. Because that's what we're really doing, figuring out why this is of value to these people. That's why it's important to have the business aspect.
"I don't want my guys that are the visionaries on where this can go to be worried about all the business aspects, about how to get out there and find where this wonderful thing fits."
What's your management style?
"I lead from the front, I believe very much in team effort. I take the approach of working very closely with my employees to learn how I can empower them and remove barriers to their success. I kind of go from 80,000 feet to mud and back at a fairly rapid rate depending on the departments. I see, from my viewpoint, that everyone that works with me... no one's heartbeat is more important than another's. We all just have different tasks. I also have the view that I really work for these people, not the other way around. My job is to help them be successful. I tend to be very firm but very fair. I try to listen well, I try to respond equally and fairly, I try to have everyone's input and consideration before I make decisions, but my decisions are the decisions.
"Or you could write down, total despot. Narcissistic despot.
"I actually hate it when somebody asks me what my management style is. That's a big question.
"One of our investors, one of the board members, is a longtime friend and we've done a number of companies together, and he told me a story about a high school football team. At this small school they traded around who was going to be captain each game, so they had this one kid who was going to be the captain that game and he wasn't the brightest light in the hallway, but he was a good kid and a good football player, so game time comes and coach asks him, "What's your advice for this game, captain, what are we gonna do?" And the kid says, 'Run fast. Jump high. Win.'
"I've carried that with me a long time. Maybe that's my style."
Is there a new funding round coming up soon?
"The company continues to be supported by their investors and owners."
What are your own expectations at VMIX?
"This market is expanding. Just like we see videos go viral, the concept of using video in all the different modalities, the distribution of information, socializing training education and all is just exploding and our job is to really be there and take care if it.
"Rather than just be a provider of applications, we're a real platform for people to build whatever function they want. And we want to provide it to them in a way that's easily fungible across multiple channels and genres. That's what we see coming, that's going continue.
"I've rarely seen a group of people who are so outstanding, such a relatively small group that can accomplish so much. So, it's a place where my unique skill set is, and experience can augment the really finely honed professionalism with the domain experience. That's the whole key. It's fun."
And the VMIX future?
"With venture-backed companies, it's pretty quick that people want to see revenues and so people start forgetting where it was that they were trying to go because, probably, it's harder to get there than they thought, and so then they start doing a few other things. And so, we're working very hard not to do that and do we have a very good board of directors and very good directors that see that.
"They want us to keep out vision focused. We have things that we do in our platform that nobody else has paid attention to. We're going to stick with that and spend our time trying to figure out how to monetize that, how to make it useable up and down the ladder, not just with the heavy enterprise guys but with the small media, the small newspapers, TV and radio stations as well and enterprises and mobile."
What do you, personally, want from this?
"So, that's the deal. At the end of the day, having done so many companies, what I remember, what's part of my bliss when I think about it, are those companies that have made a difference. Maybe they didn't make the most money, but they're still there, they're still chuggin along. In some cases, they're helping to cure cancer and saving people, and in others it's a modality for distribution or the courier business or just one of the things I've done.
"Those are the sweet ones, not the ones that have given a huge meteoric returns in the stock market that end up sort of fizzled out and the market moved and nobody really cares about them anymore. And, so, that's kind of where we're going.
"I'm really serious about this with my people: I work for them, that's clear to me. And every one of them is just as important. And the joy--and you can see it in someone's eyes--they get it. They know they can get this done. That's what I want."