Christof Haslauer, CEO at NativeWaves tells us about delivering the Best Live experiences.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Christof Haslauer: We are all doing well, thank you. We are coping with the lockdowns, following regulations and staying as safe as possible.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded NativeWaves.
Christof Haslauer: I was born in Salzburg and grew up here. Post my schooling, I joined the Salzburg University of Applied Sciences, to complete my bachelor’s degree, followed by a master’s degree in Information Technology and System Management. My childhood friend, Oliver Dumböck, and I founded NativeWaves in 2016. The founding of NativeWaves has an interesting story behind it. It all started when Oliver and I, along with some friends from University, went to the cinema to watch a Hollywood film.
Like it is in most cases in Austria, the film was dubbed into German, and we had no option available to watch the film in the original language, which is what we wanted. This got us thinking. This is where the idea of creating an app that would allow customers to enjoy the movie in the language of their choice, in perfect sync to the visuals on the screen was born. The idea was built around the concept of an app on the smartphone that listens to the audio from the screen and then uses that information to sync video and the audio, and delivers it to the viewer, through their headphones, in the language of their choice. While in theory, this was a great idea, the working of the cinema industry meant that practical implementation of this idea was a far bigger challenge than initially anticipated. Given licensing costs associated with cinema, it became clear to us that this was a non-starter at that stage. We, however, believed in our idea and explored other avenues to use this innovation. We felt Live Sports streaming provided the perfect opportunity to bring this innovation to life. We bounced the idea off Andreas Spechtler, founder of Silicon Castles, and he endorsed it and encouraged us to take the next step towards bringing this to life. This was the start of NativeWaves in its current form.
How does NativeWaves innovate?
Christof Haslauer: NativeWaves delivers engaging and immersive media experience to audiences around the world. Our technological innovations allow broadcasters, OTT service providers, e-sports organizers and Live event organizers, among others, to reliably deliver multiple streams of audio, video and data to their customers, enabling best in class personalized entertainment experiences. Unlike other solutions in the market that either offers no sync at all, or require the adoption of proprietary technology, or need manual intervention to achieve some level of sync, The NativeWaves solution is probably the only solution that is automated, and which uses audio to deliver synced personalized media experiences. The solution is plug and play, scalable and adaptable. It solves major challenges of synchronizing multiple screen and devices without manipulating the content and uses native media players on iOS and Android devices to deliver a best-in-class viewer experience. What’s more, our sync technology is patent protected, and the experience once created can be delivered not just to the home, but also on the go and onsite. We have solutions for a single screen. Multidevice and multiscreen and onsite which are all created from one production. Our solution not only allows broadcasters, streaming service providers, event organizers, among others, to provide great viewer experiences, it also gives them new revenue streams such as targeted advertising and sponsorship.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Christof Haslauer: Like everyone, the Coronavirus pandemic did affect us very badly. Our business depends on Live events and cancellation of all sporting events had a major impact on us. However, Thanks to government schemes, our committed employees and unrelenting support from our investors, we have managed to tide over this rough patch. In fact, despite all the adversity that we faced, there has been tremendous interest in the industry for our solution.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Christof Haslauer: Yes, we had to make difficult choices. Thankfully it was not around cutting staff or letting people go. The difficult choices revolved around product development and focus. We had to put a lot of things we wanted to do from an innovation standpoint on to the back burners. We had to make difficult choices of what solutions we develop and what we keep for later? Which solutions we focus on and which solution we let go. In fact, in the midst of the pandemic, we changed our focus from being a B2B tech provider to a B2B2C media experience company. We had to adapt as opportunities presented themselves. We completely recreated our product portfolio and made them much more efficient and easier to use. I think the biggest lesson learnt during the pandemic was the importance of staying flexible and being able to react. The other major learning was the importance of having the right team in place and to stand together and face the challenge.
What specific tools, software and management skills are you using to navigate this crisis?
Christof Haslauer: I am not using any specific tool or software for management. We are in a lucky place to have experienced professionals with years of experience as part of our team. The biggest management skill that I am using is to trust the team to do their jobs. Team leaders have their roles and responsibilities assigned, and we have provided all team members with authority and the tools to succeed in their roles. We have built a work culture in the company where everyone is available for everyone. The junior-most team member has access to the senior-most team members, including the CEO, and he/she can reach out to anyone for guidance. We are using the expertise we have within our team to address any issues that arise, and when we identify a gap, we get resources to fill it.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Christof Haslauer: Media consumption habits are changing, and viewers have become more demanding. They demand the choice to watch live events at their convenience and from their own perspective. They also demand additional relevant content such as audio in the language of their choice, real data and statistics at their fingertips. While there are other companies who deliver some of these experiences, we are possibly the only company that has an automated solution, and that uses broadcast audio to deliver multidevice sync and enable viewer personalization.
Our solution enables broadcasters to ensure that they get ROI for the millions of dollars they pay for content rights by
- Using all the content that is produced at the venue by giving viewers a choice to select what they want
- Reducing customer churn
- Acquiring new customers
- Keeping viewers within their platform by providing them with additional content so that the viewers do not have to search for them on other platforms
- Providing new revenue streams
We plan to stay in the game by continuing to innovative keeping the end customer experience as a guiding light and providing our customers with products and solution that will enable them to deliver experiences that their customers demand
Your final thoughts?
Christof Haslauer: It has been a tough year that has brought out the best in me and my team. I am grateful to the team for maintaining their laser focus on our objectives and targets we set out to achieve despite the adversity we faced due to the pandemic. I am really proud of what we achieved. Refining your entire product portfolio, in some cases taking it completely apart and rebuilding it to make it, even more, user friendly is not easy. It is even more difficult when you are all working remotely. The fact that we achieved this and managed to build a portfolio of products that meets the requirements of our customers is something I am really proud of. The fact that our board and investors have stood shoulder to shoulder with us gives us the confidence that we are heading in the right direction. The confidence our customers have shown in us is really encouraging. On a wider note, I hope we find a solution to this pandemic and life returns back to normal for all, whatever the new normal is so that we can get on with doing what we all do best – Living and enjoying life.
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