Yesterday was Earth Day and Mother Nature smiled on Portlanders with a brilliant preview of summer weather, as temperatures reached record highs. It was a great day to write code on a park bench, brainstorm marketing ideas on a hike, or support customers during a long bicycle ride (not officially recommended).
The arrival of Earth Day also signified another important event. That’s right: the results are in for the Portland Afoot 2012 rankings of the region’s best employers for low-car commuters! Elemental is proud to place among the top five companies in the Portland metro area for the second year in a row. While there may not be a quantifiable improvement in the rankings department, Elemental saw its score elevate from a year ago thanks to our increased participation in the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) Bike Commute Challenge—we received an extra five points for our bike commute rate of over 20%! Our other perfect scores included providing transit passes to employees, lack of reimbursement for car parking (we’re ruthless) and shared vehicle access.
Michael Andersen, editor of Portland Afoot, stated that Elemental deserves “more credit than ever for understanding that great commuting benefits make workers happy, healthy and productive."
If you see us at a trade show, order our systems, or just spend some time on our website, you know that Elemental is green. It’s not always easy, but we do our best to apply the concept the color represents to our daily business practices.
Next up, we are excited for a community event this coming weekend: our third installment of Rebuilding Together. This event gives Elemental employees an opportunity to repair and rejuvenate the home of a family that requires a helping hand. This time we have a house in Northeast Portland in our sights. You’re not going to be able to recognize it when we’re done with it—and that’s a good thing.
The 2012 Olympics in London are set to be the biggest media event in history, and Elemental is keen to be in the thick of it. As the first truly “digital Olympics,” we can’t wait to see this summer’s games take video streaming coverage to the next level.
- In 2008, NBCOlympics.com served 75.5 million streams during the games, totaling 9.9 million hours of online video coverage.
- The BBC served over 40 million streams which totaled 6.5 million hours of coverage the same year, including 200,000 concurrent streaming viewers.
- In 2010, NBC Olympics Mobile tallied 82 million page views and 1.9 million mobile video streams. This growth occurred even though the winter Olympics are often not as popular on a global basis as the summer games.
- Akamai delivered more than 5,000 hours of live and on-demand video over the 17 days of the winter games, totaling more than 12 petabytes of data across its Olympics customers. At the peak, it served more than 30 concurrent live-streaming events.
While these are impressive numbers, it is 2012 that grabs the title of the first truly digital Olympics. Clearly, over the course of little more than a fortnight, we’re going to see statistics that blow these prior numbers away.
But why will more viewers take in the games via streaming? A big reason is because of the unprecedented scope of streaming access. NBC, for example, announced in September that it will offer live coverage of all events, making this the first time viewers in the United States will have the chance to view any Olympic event as it happens. In the past, the network delayed popular Olympic events for primetime viewing, a policy that received a less-than-favorable response.
As broadcasters all over the world depart from these “primetime plans,” it brings up another issue: live coverage of every event means that viewers, no longer limited to the primetime timeslot, may not be home with the telly to view their favorite event. Broadcasters have responded by planning to stream to a wide array of connected devices, including set-top boxes, PCs, tablets and mobile devices, giving consumers access to the Olympics in ways never before possible.
Without providing specifics as to how many major broadcasters will be leveraging Elemental for the 2012 Olympics, we would just like to remind Mr. Phelps that no record is safe. One thing is certain, however: live and on-demand video streaming powered by Elemental will be seen far and wide.
Reprinted from The Oregonian Op-Ed page, March 25, 2012.
In his powerful and stunningly public resignation letter ("Why I'm leaving Goldman Sachs"), Greg Smith comprehensively cataloged the rapid decline in his company's corporate culture. His writing struck a chord with me here in Portland, 3,000 miles away from Wall Street. When a company's leadership loses its way and neglects the core values that made it successful in the first place, the inevitably resulting downward spiral is swift and unforgiving. Goldman's fall from grace is just the latest public example of this, and corruption of corporate culture is certainly not limited to the financial industry: Companies such as Enron and WorldCom devolved over time into similarly toxic cultures that led to corporate implosions with enormous costs to employees, shareholders and society.
Five years ago, I had the unique opportunity to co-found a company with two talented colleagues. We were all engineers who liked and respected one another's abilities and had similar thoughts on the importance of delivering video to screens other than the TV set in the living room. It took several years for Elemental to get its footing, but at this point we have finally built the foundation of a promising business. I'm proud of the fact that beyond satisfied customers and increasingly cheerful investors, Elemental now has more than 60 employees and a sizable annual payroll. We are extremely fortunate to be in this position -- most startups burn out in the first year or two, and less than one-half of 1 percent of the 28 million firms in the United States ever achieve more than $10 million in annual revenue, a threshold we crossed last year for the first time. We're no Facebook, but we're building a company with the potential to create lasting value.
What I most appreciate about Elemental, however, is that it's a place where people love coming to work every day. We have a shared core purpose of perfecting the media experience; everyone gets fired up when the video we've processed is streamed over the Internet to tablets and mobile phones. Furthermore, everyone at Elemental lives and breathes our core values: integrity, customer-centricity and innovation. The Elemental culture is one that rewards and reinforces adherence to these values on a daily basis, far beyond the mission statements that are posted in the conference rooms of big companies. This is not to say we are perfect; given the pressure to deliver results fast, mistakes happen. When this occurs, we reflect on how we can do a better job setting aggressive but realistic goals, how we can temper our desire to win with the requirement that we need to do so fairly.
This all leads up to one of the key lessons I've learned at Elemental: As the company has grown, an increasing amount of resources need to be deployed in strengthening the company culture. These resources are expensive in the short term. They are money and, more important, time allocated away from software development, sales and marketing to intangible areas like education, training and human resources. But this investment is absolutely critical for the company's long-term health and the sustainable well-being of all our stakeholders. When that investment is cut back or simply not increased sufficiently to keep up with company growth, that's when the downward spiral can start.
Unlike investment banking, the odds are extremely low that Elemental will make any of us fabulously wealthy. But every day this group of uniquely talented individuals, working as a team in pursuit of the same goals, makes our customers' lives a little less stressful. Every day we head home exhausted from the long hours but fulfilled in the knowledge that we are doing everything possible to build a company that the community can be proud of. As America slowly works its way out of this brutal recession, I remain hopeful that for every Goldman that loses its way, there will be many Elementals that rise up to replace it.
Sam Blackman is the CEO and co-founder of Elemental Technologies, a software company based in Portland.