Name: Steve Hastings
Company: West Pond Enterprises
SCN: What is your position, and what does it entail? What are your responsibilities?
STEVE HASTINGS: Like most CEOs of small companies, I wear many hats—sales, engineering, inventory management, and occasionally office cleaner. But my favorite task is talking with customers. I enjoy the process of matching their needs with our products, and, when necessary, creating solutions that are tailored specifically for them. Our smart headend products pack an enormous amount of technology in a small box. Traditional solutions require many components, installed in a rack, and tethered together with a labyrinth of cables. We put all that functionality into one box and tie the components together virtually.
SCN: How long have you been in this position?
SH: I have been at the company since it was founded in 2011. Before that, I was a cofounder of UpdateLogic which was sold to SiliconImage. Prior to UpdateLogic, I was vice president of engineering at Rachis Corporation; Rachis was sold to a subsidiary of NEC.
SCN: How has your background prepared you for your role?
SH: This is my fourth startup, and the third in which I have had a founding role. Each time I have learned more about myself: what tasks I enjoy, what I am good at, and where my weaknesses lie. Being able to understand my own boundaries has helped me to avoid pitfalls and build a better, scalable company.
SCN: What are your short- and long-term goals?
SH: In the short term, we are focused on TV channel creation. We want to help businesses add TV channels to their in-house TV networks. This is our passion, and we do this for both simple and complex installations. Our business is growing quickly—over the last year, we have deployed products into a number of marquee facilities including aircraft carriers, four star hotels, commercial television broadcasting facilities, class A office spaces, and 60,000 seat stadiums.
Today, we are focused on the North American markets, but, tomorrow, we will be looking at the world as a whole—our long-term goal is to expand worldwide. Westpond’s technology supports international standards, so we’ll be ready to work in the global marketplace when the time comes.
SCN: What is the greatest challenge that you face?
SH: We are a very technical company with a stellar staff that has created a suite of robust, flexible, and tightly-integrated smart headend products. For West Pond to grow, we need to invest in marketing and sales—but in a way that reflects our technical excellence and our commitment to customer satisfaction. We are proud of what we do, we need to make sure we continue this tradition as we grow.
SCN: Where do you see the AV market heading?
SH: In our world, the debate over smart headends versus smart displays continues. In a stadium, school, corporate office, or other venue with a facility-wide AV network, the integrator and end customer must decide if each display will have its own multimedia device or if the intelligence be consolidated at the headend. Or even both, which is the end result in many cases.
As the price of media devices dropped, we saw investments at the display end. Media devices were being strapped to the back of displays and CAT6 wiring was added to control the media—but that shift came with a cost. Installing these devices complicated the installation, making it difficult to manage and increasing failure rates. To counter this, we see a shift toward smarter headends with simple displays or smart TVs. Sometimes the design will even dedicate a virtual channel to every display.
This shift reduces the total cost of ownership for any commercial AV distribution network and is an ideal market for the West Pond MX-400) smart headend systems. Any of these designs are suitable for our technology. Our smart headend technology is well positioned to provide economical solutions to this growing market.
SCN: Are there new initiatives we are likely to see from West Pond Enterprises?
SH: We are investing heavily in a cloud based device management and content distribution service for our devices. The MX-400 is a smart headend that can be managed and supported remotely. This includes content distribution, remote access, software updates, etc. Many of our customers have West Pond equipment at multiple sites.
The cloud service allows our customers to manage the West Pond devices as a group, reducing their costs and increasing customer satisfaction. For example, a customer creating and managing local attractions channels at a collection of hotels can use this site to transcode videos, distribute the media, and manage their playback, without ever visiting any of the hotels. A beta version of the service has been in operation since early 2018 and continues to grow in features and functionality. This service will be commercially available this fall.
SCN: How can systems contractors better position themselves to profit from products and/or services you have to offer?
SH: Our remote management, combined with our HTML5 video wrapper signage and video server channels, enables integrators to tap into recurring revenue streams that aren’t available with other solutions. Systems contractors that are looking to get more than a onetime installation fee from their customers should look closely at the West Pond Smart Headend Systems.