As co-founder and CEO of media server software company Wowza Media Systems, David Stubenvoll has the business acumen and experience to ensure startup success: Wowza is the fifth new business Stubenvoll has developed, and his experience gives him much wisdom to share: “If you’re in business just to make money you’re probably not going to be successful. There has to be some ‘why?’ behind it.”
The origin story of Wowza is unique in its simplicity as Stubenvoll tells it: “To find out what business you should be in, you need to be in business. So that left a problem: we weren’t in business. So quite literally the original plan was that we were going to start a business arbitrarily, didn’t matter where it was, and see where it led us. And so we started video blogging.”
This video blog, originally called “The World Renowned BlogCheese” (“Don’t judge me on my marketing,” Stubenvoll said.) led to the discovery of an opportunity, one that Wowza was created to take advantage of.
“There was no media server out there that we trusted building a business in,” Stubenvoll said.
Enter, Wowza. In filling this void, Wowza has discovered a great need and netted major clients ranging from Colorado’s Department of Transportation for use in traffic cams to SpaceX, who utilized Wowza’s server technology to stream their launch and even in their mission control room.
If you think about it, Stubenvoll’s approach to business makes a lot of sense: do away with formalities and focus on what you’re passionate about. His method of focusing on customer success over profit has led to tremendous growth since its creation in 2005, especially in the past two years.
Since 2005, Wowza has grown from a team of just two (Stubenvoll and co-founder Charlie Good) to 55 with workers across the globe, from New Zealand to Berlin. As the company grows, Stubenvoll faces a new challenge: growing the company without compromising the core values that have made Wowza such a success with its customer base.
Stubenvoll said his philosophy is “not to teach it but to hire it. Hire people with your values, with that same DNA; we call it the ‘Wowza Way.’” Stubenvoll said, yet again, that the “Wowza Way” thinks “less in terms of profit and more in terms of customer success.”
Key to customer success is the Wowza customer support team. Just as intriguing as the seemingly haphazard formation of Wowza, so too is how Stubenvoll has found some of their customer support employees: “If you show up and you start answering questions correctly and you’re consistent, well… Want a job?”
This has led to more hiring out of the US, and as one might expect with a media/video server company, many of Wowza’s employees work remotely from around the world. This has helped greatly with Wowza’s international growth, with over 150,000 licensees in over 150 countries.
While Wowza has been a global company since its beta version, its rapid growth in the global marketplace has introduced new challenges: “We still have crazy issues, you know, where people in Portugal want these tax stamps and Russia wants everything written in dual languages. You just have to decide how much you want to put up with, like with the dual language stuff, we just say ‘No. You can buy our stuff, the license is in English. It is what it is.’”
Wowza’s future is certainly promising. However, Stubenvoll is well aware that there is no shortage of work to be done. Wowza is currently building up its marketing and sales departments in effort to expand its market reach.
“We have a long way to go in terms of maturing as a business,” Stubenvoll said. “We’re at the tail end of the geek stage.”
As Wowza prepares itself for the mass market Stubenvoll is careful to remember what has brought Wowza this far in the first place: “We want to make our customers successful and it turns out when you focus on that you make a lot of money too.”
So take heed, young entrepreneurs, to the sage advice of this startup guru: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”