The Nine 2021: Paul Richards

Paul Richards SCN: The Nine 2021
(Image credit: Future)

Title: Marketing Director, Business Development and Strategic Partnerships

Company: PTZOptics and HuddleCamHD

Location: Philadelphia, PA

Twitter: @SimpleQuaker

Overtime: In his free time, Richards enjoys 3D printing and building DIY electronics out of the 3D models he’s created.

Why You Need to Know Him: Paul Richards, 33, demonstrates every day how modern marketing can elevate pro AV. Just ask the nearly 27,000 subscribers of PTZOptics’ YouTube channel. “I’m the closest person to a YouTuber that the AV industry has,” he said. “We’re empowering our customers through education. The customers don’t really care about the specs anymore. They want to know how a product will work for them.”

A Word from the Wise: Sometimes it can take a bit of trial and error to find your path. “I graduated college with a business management degree. My first job out of college was business-to-business professional audiovisual sales, which I wasn’t very good at,” Richards said. Working for his family business, Haverford Systems—a “mom and pop” integration firm in the Philadelphia area—he quickly found that AV sales wasn’t for him, so he proposed a change. “It was early in the Amazon days, and we found that there was a big niche in ecommerce,” he said. “We’d put Crestron AirMedia systems on Amazon and we were selling thousands of them.”

Thriving in this endeavor, Richards happened to cross paths with a small company by the name of Zoom. “I bumped into [CEO] Eric Yuan when he had one salesperson,” he said. “He was telling me, ‘This industry’s going to be massive. You’ve got to get into it.’” Aware of the burgeoning need for professional video communications and the lack of professional plug-and-play USB PTZ cameras to serve it, Richards took the leap. “I met with our pro AV engineering team and planned out a solution that we could bring to market within six to nine months.”

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Shaping an Industry: The two companies—HuddleCamHD, which serves the video communications market, and PTZOptics, which caters to broadcast and streaming—got traction right away. “There was a time when the director of sales at Zoom was telling everybody to buy HuddleCams because there was nothing else out there,” Richards said. “We had a really good connection with Zoom early on, and that helped jump-start the business.”

After shepherding the companies into a strong position, he was able to transition from sales to marketing. “I found my flow in the marketing side, hosting live streams,” Richards said. “I would host Zoom webinars in 2014; I was streaming our Zoom webinars in 2016. I think we were way ahead of the curve.” When Zoom became a household name in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he already had more than four years’ worth of YouTube tutorials on streaming and communications techniques, establishing him as an authority on those subjects.

Richards is extremely fond of the pro AV and broadcast industries. “Everyone is really nice,” he said. “Even competitors are nice and you can hang out. Everyone has to be so flexible because of how fast things change that everyone is very tapped into what’s going on and what’s current, and that creates a sense of community.” 

That fast pace of change is something he thrives on, and he’s excited for what’s next—especially in the realm of IP video. “It excites me to give someone who thought they would never have the budget to do something—at the high school level, at the church level—the chance to leapfrog 20 years of technology with computers and software.”

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Get to know the rest of The Nine 2021.

Matt Pruznick

Matt Pruznick is the former editor of AV Technology, and senior editor for Systems Contractor News and Residential Systems. He is based in New York.