CO-FOUNDER & CEO, DATAZOOM
Diane Strutner is the CEO of Datazoom, which she co-founded in January 2017. A Silicon Valley native and accomplished international executive, Diane has demonstrated her leadership abilities and sales & business development acumen within the American and Spanish startup scenes. Before Datazoom, Diane was VP for Global Sales and Business Development at NicePeopleAtWork. Prior to that she held sales and business development positions at several internet and software startups in Spain. In addition to her activities with Datazoom, she is the Founder of BeOnAlert, a sexual harassment reporting platform created in response to the #TimesUp and #MeToo movements.
I grew up around Silicon Valley but came into the world of video technology only a few years back in a place known mostly for its beaches, tapas and Sangria – Barcelona. After completing my undergrad at Manhattan College, I moved to Barcelona, and started my career. I began by working in various sales roles at different tech and internet companies until I was recruited into my previous position at a video analytics company to lead their global sales and business development teams. Looking back I realize I was given a unique opportunity to becomes an expert in a space that was very new and still developing. It also meant that in order to drive sales, I needed to take extra time to learn and understand the needs of customers, and how they used (or wish they could use) data and analytics. I attribute the new perspectives I gained to conversations I had with leading executive technologists around the world with giving me the insight to clearly see an opportunity to create and build Datazoom.
Live streaming alone is so mainstream it is hard to call it a trend at this point, but there has been particular growth in the sports and esports sectors; it’s really on the rise. At an industry level, we’re also continuing to see movements towards vertical consolidation. It’s not hard to find talk of industry giants like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T take on new (and big) M&A transactions in the market. Their strategy hingest on the theory that by having more insight, access and control over the each link in the value chain, they can build efficiency and preserve margins. For example, trends suggest that the cable company who can provide their own streaming service to their existing customer base without losing audience to companies like Netflix and Hulu will preserve more business and sustain higher margins.
The good news is that video is booming. According to Cisco, 82% of the traffic over the internet will be video by 2021. Within online and OTT video, theoretically, there is a massive opportunity to provide a more personalized, interactive and flexible viewing experience every time we hit play.
The challenge is in delivering video over the ever-changing landscape of the Internet. Before cable companies and telcos controlled the entire, end-to-end, delivery path, and then it fragmented into 20-30 technology platforms and services each managed by outside stakeholders. What’s missing from this new equation is a way to regain control over this fragmented system, specifically with a good “technology glue” to integrate and better refine the interactions between all the services contributing to the viewing experience.
Now, if we consider in tandem the trends of live streaming and vertical market consolidation, I believe the biggest opportunities in the streaming video industry come part and parcel with improved collection of data and automation.
Live streaming places every step in the video delivery process under scrutiny, as the stakes are high. Plenty of live events require, as I mentioned earlier, 20-30 services to come together, in real-time, to deliver a viewing experience. With each service under the control of different stakeholders, their ability to communicate with one another becomes incredibly important. Today, stakeholders don’t have great resources to communicate with one another. Believe it or not, in 2018, before a big live event there are key stakeholders from various vendors and companies who are (literally) required to sit in the same room in order to share data about just what they see occurring within their own systems. The videotech industry hasn’t found a worthwhile way to manage all these parties apart from physical presence.
The giants taking on these massive M&A deals face the same challenge when they want to actually create that margin. They’re trying to figure out how to integrate and innovate with a hodge-podge of companies and technologies, A.K.A. their “tech stack”, which have been acquired in recent years, and are struggling to realize the value from these transactions because a key “technology glue” is missing to tie them all together.
I think that the role of real-time data, within streaming videotech in particular, poses one of the greatest opportunities to bring about better integrations between the different softwares and power the real-time refining necessary to create an ecosystem that hasn’t really existed thus far. Only then can content distributors maximize the efficiency of their systems through automated changes and adjustments within the video technology stack.
While I was working for a large video analytics company and I came to realize two things: First, that there are better ways to harness data than simply calculating metrics for analytics. In other words, data was being processed into charts and graphs, which a person must then interpret, and later act upon. Why go through this multi-step process when there are actions that don’t need “analysis” and could be acted upon by the system immediately? I thought it was more progressive to work with data, making data itself better so that computers could make decisions within a time frame and at a scale that could spur genuine change, rather than simply displaying information on a dashboard to an individual who wouldn’t be able to take on the volume of actions at the speeds necessary to make a similar impact.
Secondly, I realized that there were plenty of stakeholders who need data , and yet don’t have access to it today. Currently, data collection is done on a one-to-one basis, with each tool, like analytics companies, collecting its own data. 20-30 technology integrations we end up with a player bloated with excess of code, each to collect data resulting in a duplication of total data collected, and thereby inconsistencies between each platform. I saw an opportunity for a one-to-many data collection and routing frameworks for the real-time, logarithmic data sets in video, similar to what Segment and mParticle have done in the customer and mobile data spaces.
Since our birth last year, and launch in April, we’re planning on rolling out a new service within our Adaptive Video Logistics platform along with a new user interface and expanded functionalities before the end of the year. Doing this will involve expanding our team, with a continued focus on growing a world-class engineering organization, and establishing new partnerships for distribution and integration.
Since Datazoom is pioneering a new category of software, our team is still figuring out the best way tell our story, and expand mindshare for how we see the future of videotech through thought leadership. We’ve had great response to some of the articles and publications that we’ve published since April. That said, it seems that a simple, old-school, live demo of our platform really paints the best picture and accelerates interest, business, and expansion, so our focus will continue to be on getting in front of customers and partners and showing off our stuff.
Fundraising for a very niche, enterprise technical business was very challenging. There are no comparables and no competitor’s story or history that you can learn, improve and make your own. Investors like to invest in things that they are familiar with, and particularly in Seed stage fundraising, it’s hard to find early investors who are familiar with the struggles caused by siloed, fragmented and latentcy-prone logarithmic technical video data. There’s a narrower pool of investors for Datazoom in our early stages than, let’s say, a dog-walking app or food delivery service, if you catch my drift. Luckily I found some great resources to support me. I had the privilege of bringing on some awesome advisors, and being a part of the BRIIA, an accelerator focused on AI and Machine learning. All have provided me with a lot of tools and connections to grow Datazoom.
From our early days, we’ve worked hard to build our core values of transparency, reliability and scalability into our product and culture at Datazoom. We want the experience of using and engaging with Datazoom to be simple, reliable, and intuitive. No need to read through complicated integration documentation or listen to long-winded and detailed onboarding calls to get started with our service. No complicated and unpredictable pricing structures or hidden costs either.
We’ve built a niche, but powerful, product technology platform that enables a wide range of customers to leverage our out-of-the-box solutions, which means less time-consuming and costly custom development work. We average about 10 minutes for a demo, which includes performing a live integration. That said, we’re a team of problem-solvers and we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty to help customers and partners overcome challenges with data, integration and automation.
At the age of 28, I still have lots to learn about being a leader and motivating others. However there’s nothing I’m more proud of than the team we’ve assembled at Datazoom and how everyone takes the reins so well in their area of the business. I started by looking for people who are already passionate, curious, and smart, and like to solve problems. Next, I spent a lot of time establishing our core values with my team, and discussing and defining our vision and goals for the company, product and business. We also discussed things like how we want to communicate with each other, what were healthy (and unhealthy) habits and observations from teams we’ve worked with in the past. Finally, I think as leaders we oftentimes want to limit risk by maintaining (too much) control. But if you’ve got great people, aligned to achieve the same things, with an established set of ground rules for how to work effectively together to get there, the last thing you want to do is get in their way! Hierarchies, micro-management and cumbersome reporting end up stifling productivity, become frustrating and are de-motivating. However if you start with a culture of trust and honesty, giving each person flexibility and autonomy over their work and hand over ownership (for better or for worse) for for their area of responsibility, I have found this combination to provide the natural motivation needed to work hard, find new approaches to fix problems, support co-workers, and find satisfaction in their work.
I recently wrote an article about some of the career advice that my dad gave me (which totally changed my life). I think for anyone aspiring to become a leader in the tech industry, or leadership of any kind really, I’d say to learn to be open to and embrace new (sometimes scary) experiences. Think about what career path you want, and be ambitious with the jobs you apply for. Figure out what skills, qualifications and experiences are critical to the roles that interest you the most, and try shape the job you have today to get you the relevant experience and qualifications needed to take the next step. Keep moving forward!