It is not an easy task to become a CEO, although the designation looks fancy it is arduous. Because if the CEO fails, the firm will have to bear the loss. Great CEOs help make the world a better place and along with upsides there are downsides too.
We are going to introduce you to an exemplary CEO who dealt with pressure placidly and is now one among the established business people. Andreas Kisslinger founded his first company at the age of 20, and has over two decades of business experience as a serial entrepreneur, having founded and built 8 companies in the verticals of advertising, media production, web & app development, translation and dubbing, and streaming technologies. Andreas founded Lightcast.com in 2010 and still serves as CEO of its parent company Cross Media Group with offices in Charlotte, NC and Vienna, Austria.
Lightcast.com with its Media Cloud PaaS product, specializes in multi-platform media distribution and end-to-end OTT solutions, providing media publishers all the tools and technology they need in order to cost-effectively grow and monetize viewerships locally, nationwide and globally.
Andreas Kisslinger talks to us about his journey in Lightcast.
Educate us on the history of your company, and transformation over the years.
Lightcast.com was founded in 2010 as a video distribution and marketing company with a clear focus on multi-platform distribution. The company quickly became a pioneer in development of app templates for the first OTT platforms, and in launching new apps in their respective app stores. Lightcast.com started development of proprietary app templates, and began building new apps for set-top-boxes and Connected TV devices like the first generation Roku box, at a time when their app stores consisted of only a handful of apps. We adapted to the change in the streaming media landscape quickly, to the rapid change of requirements among content publishers, and remained determined to quickly integrate new TV app platforms as they arose. Over the years it was clear that our media management system, the Lightcast Control Center, and now the Lightcast Media Cloud, developed into our core software-as-a-service and the continuous growth of the software, the extension with new features, became a core focus. Listening to customers and allowing them to influence priorities and roadmaps have been a core value from the beginning and our very first customers are still with us. Today Lightcast.com is a multi-platform OVP and OTT provider, with over 2000 TV Apps launched in the appstores of the leading Connected TV platforms around the world, with a true end-to-end PaaS and with solutions for almost every type of media publisher.
What was your first project? And how did you expand your offerings over the years?
After several years of product development, primarily the ground-up architecture of our integrated hardware systems, the media management system and proprietary OTT app templates, we started to take on our first customers – initially from within the House Of Worship sector who sought to stream live events, and grow new audiences across new devices and screens. With the rise of OTT platforms and new SmartTVs and ConnectedTV devices, Lightcast.com widened its range of services rapidly and continuously.
Mistakes happen, but a CEO must have the ability to learn from past experiences and instill lessons for the future. Any such experience?
Yes, one thing I learned with Lightcast.com is not to be too hesitant with taking on external capital early on in order to accelerate growth, and to focus stronger on sales earlier in the game. After we founded Lightcast.com in 2010 we focused entirely on product development for the first 5 years. We wanted to build the best PaaS product, the very best multi-platform OVP and OTT solution. During those years we were hesitant about allowing investors to step on board and we were overly cautious, yes outright paranoid, with launching a premature product too early. We slowly allowed the first customers onboard the Lightcast.com OVP after years of hardware- and software development and to this day, the focus is on refining and ever-perfecting the Lightcast Media Cloud – our core PaaS product. As a result we did not grow financially as quickly as some of our competitors and we allowed competitors to copy and catch up to some of the inventions we had rolled out in the OTT space. The reason for being “slow to sell” our proprietary technology lay in having observed competitors going to market far too early with premature products. So we went overboard in the other direction and kept sales and marketing around as a neglected step-child. This is not something we would do again.
What is the role of a CEO in building Mission and Vision statements?
At Lightcast.com we service a wide variety of different types of customers: independent media producers, broadcasters, content aggregators, distributors, schools, universities, cities, county governments, marketers, enterprises, not-for-profit organizations, but even churches and houses of worship. One thing I learned from our clients in the religious sector is that a CEO’s responsibility can at times be compared with the ones of a Cleric: he has to lead his flock to green pastures. And: even though we may walk through a valley of shadows at times, we fear no evil. Employees of every seniority and executive level need to always see the green pastures before them – even as we are just under way to approach them.
Nothing is as demoralizing as fear: fear of losing key accounts, fear of losing significance, fear of losing leadership, fear of becoming replaceable, fear of becoming bored, fear of being rejected, fear of losing friends. To counter such fears, a CEO is frequently required to be a bearer of good news, the one who points out the victories, the successes, the benefits.
Unforeseen opportunities often come from taking risks. Taking risks shows confidence and helps you grow as a business leader. Did you experience such opportunity?
Always. Coming from a family with lots of love, but little bankroll, I have had to take quite a lot of risk in business from an early age on. I started my first company at the age of 20– a marketing company working with farmers, skiing resorts, hotels and small businesses in Tyrol, Austria. We specialized in innovative marketing strategies and ad campaigns, as well as in web development. This was in the early 90s and only a handful of businesses, especially in the middle of the Alps, had a website, or even a concept of what the internet was or could do for them. Everything was risky and the size of the stakes just kept increasing with every new venture and company. Years later I had to put all of my “bloodsweat-and-tear-extracted savings” on the line to save a new office I had just opened up. It ended up leading to the launch of two new business and my introduction into real estate investment, which ended up influencing my course positively for years to come. Now, I often did not realize it at the time, but the risks were results of new opportunities being ceased. Having been entirely focused on the tasks at hand and the road ahead, I often realized the size of obstacles I had just dodged when taking a glimpse in the rearview mirror. I wish I could say it was always strategic foresight, but during many moments in business life, it was merely my bulldog-like determination to stay on course and persist no matter what, which made me take risks that led to new opportunities.
One of the greatest traits of a CEO is the ability to read people and adapt management styles accordingly. What do you believe in, happy and satisfied employees or strict management rules?
As with so many aspects in business, there is power in balance. I think I used to be a more outspoken and loud captain during the first two decades of exec experience with a strong emphasis on strict management rules, but just like it happens to many, I have grown to appreciate balance increasingly. This does not mean to become shy, ignorant or soft, but maybe just little more patient. The more I grow in the appreciation of being happy and satisfied myself; the more I wish the same to every one of our employees. I believe this is only possible if we allow ourselves to be happy, satisfied and content. We can only grant to others what we grant to ourselves as well, and often I have observed merciless leaders being merciless with themselves as well. We need to recognize this, and we need people in our lives whom we trust entirely and who can be our blind spot monitors. My Dad is one of those in my life, as well as other executives and most of all my wife actually. I guess many of us can identify with that one…
Where do you visualize your company in a couple of years?
My honest wish would be to see Lightcast.com enable tens of thousands of independent producers, vloggers, publishers, media departments in organizations to grow enormous viewerships, and as a result build new revenue streams for themselves. I would like to know that Lightcast.com played a significant role in movinge the OTT space forward, stimulating the markets of media producers around the world, and developing one of the most user-friendly media management systems for multi-platform and OTT distribution. On a structural level I would like to have opened offices in South America and Asia, and further increased values and returns for our founding employees, our management and stakeholders.
What are your future plans on developing your company?
Staff up and go on a hiring spree, increasing the exec team, focusing on the board and its extension, team up with a
strategic partner who invests more than mere funds, balancing focus on, the continuous development of our PaaS product the “Media Cloud”, and on sales and marketing.
“Being able to provide TV App & mobile app development in house, and enabling publishers to build dynamic navigation structures and control all content in real-time, allows our customers to save an amazing amount of time and money.”
"We specialize in cost-efficient multiplatform distribution and OTT publishing of all things media: live-events, 24/7 streams, VOD, AOD and all associated metadata and images."