Interview with Jeff Ray, CEO, Brightcove

Jeff Ray, CEO at Brightcove

“As a video company, we need to make it easy for our customers to make great experiences for their end customers.”

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Tell us about your role at Brightcove and how you got here. What’s the most fascinating aspect of leading a technology company?

It was a unique path that brought me to this leadership role at Brightcove. After successfully transitioning my prior company, Ellucian, from a combination of multiple premise-based software companies to a cloud-based SaaS leader of solutions designed to enable colleges and universities to do a better job of helping their students succeed, I was ready for the next chapter. I happily retired last summer, packed up, and moved to Florida. As fortunate as I was to be in that position, I really missed being in business with exciting people, doing exciting things. Retirement wasn’t for me.

I was attracted to Brightcove as a company with great people and products that change the way we communicate. Video is the lingua franca for effectively engaging people in ways that break down barriers and transcend borders, time zones, and cultures.

This is an exciting time to be leading a technology company. The web has massively disrupted the ability of media companies, brands, and enterprises the world over to control and direct their messages. That power is now in the hands of consumers, and organizations are struggling with this disruption. I joined Brightcove because we are right in the thick of using technology to help customers address this rapidly changing environment. Brightcove’s market-leading portfolio of video solutions, blue-chip customer base, and exceptional workforce provide a solid foundation upon which to move grow a significant, profitable business. I’m excited to work with the team to build on the strong market momentum they have already created.

How do you measure the performance of your marketing and sales teams? To what extent do you leverage technology to report the performance metrics?

The easy answer would be to say that we measure success by our revenue results. But I think that’s putting the cart before the horse. I’m more focused on measuring every aspect of our performance by the success of our customers. If we are helping our customers use video to grow their businesses then we will be successful. And every employee at Brightcove is involved in doing that, in a way that creates an exceptional experience for our customers across all our interactions with them

Given the changing dynamic of video marketing technology landscape, how do you prepare for the competition?

We prepare for the competition by focusing on what the customer needs. Great companies care about what customers need, not simply what they want. And great companies go deeper – they dive deeper, anticipate, and look around the corner to figure out those needs and then deliver solutions and offerings that meet them. That’s not easy to do, and that’s why there are only a handful of brilliant technology companies doing that well. Brightcove continues to stay on the cutting edge in our industry by staying close to our customers, refreshing product portfolios through R&D innovation at both the platform and the point product levels, integrating software offerings and professional services, and of course, attracting and retaining top talent. I am in awe of the talent and energy here.

What does your ‘Ideal Customer’ Profile look like? Which industries are best suited to benefit from Brightcove products?

Our ideal customer is an organization that recognizes the impact that video can have on growing their business and creating a healthy, vibrant culture – and chooses to act to realize that value.

Video is a communications medium that is broadly applicable across virtually all industries. This can be seen in the projected fourfold growth of internet video traffic from 2016 to 2021, reaching 82% of overall global consumer internet traffic. This explosion in video consumption is creating tremendous opportunities — and challenges — for companies around the world. More and more of these organizations are turning to Brightcove for innovative technology, deep video expertise, and our obsession with customer success to realize these opportunities.

Brightcove began as a company that served predominantly media companies – organizations for which monetization of video served as the main revenue source. With the incredible rise in the consumption of video, we have now seen rapid growth in video usage by brands and enterprise customers across all industries, as these organizations leverage video for both external marketing and internal communications. Because of our excellence in delivering an exceptional customer experience in Media, we are able to deliver that same level of quality to the commercial market.

Which new geographies are you currently targeting?

Brightcove has successfully established its presence outside the US, with about 45% of our revenue coming from international business. We are the de facto standard video platform for media companies in Japan, Australia, and New Zealand and we are working to leverage that strength with enterprises in other industries. We are also growing rapidly in a number of Asian markets. We recently opened an Indian office and are seeing strong interest among both media companies and enterprises in other vertical industries. Our European business is growing steadily in the UK, Germany, and France, and we are looking at channel partnerships to expand in other EU countries. We are similarly in the early stages of exploring channel partnerships for South American markets.

How do you leverage AI/ML and Data Science at Brightcove?

AI/ML and data science insights are baked directly into our products, making it seamless and simple for our customers to benefit from these advancing technologies. A fantastic example of this is Brightcove’s award-winning innovation, Context Aware Encoding (CAE). CAE is a groundbreaking video compression technology that uses machine learning and deep video analysis to achieve optimum quality for each video with the fewest bits necessary. This patent-pending approach to transcoding enables Brightcove customers to maximize visual quality while reducing storage and delivery bandwidth requirements by up to 50 percent. Unlike other encoding solutions, CAE understands that not all video is the same – for example, a high action movie has higher content complexity than a talking head interview – and is smart enough to recognize that in real time and adjust. The solution takes into account the broader context of the video experience and creates a custom encoding profile tailored to the combination of each individual video’s content complexity and predicted viewing environment. The result: higher quality video that starts up faster and buffers less, along with significant bandwidth and storage savings.

What new technologies in marketing and advertising fascinate you the most? What are your thoughts on the future of ‘AR/VR/Live Streaming’?

Technologies that excite us the most are the ones that lead to amazing customer experiences. As a video company, we need to make it easy for our customers to make great experiences for their end customers. To that end, I’m most excited about personalized, interactive, and video-first experiences. In addition, live streaming will be an area of renewed focus for us in the coming years as we are finally seeing the broader market catch up to what our early adopters have been doing with live streaming. We are interested in AR/VR but still view that as a developing technology in very early stages.

What startups in the technology industry are you watching keenly right now?

Our industry is rapidly changing and constantly evolving, so having our finger on the pulse of what the most innovative startups in our space are doing is crucial. There are plenty of startups that we admire, some we partner and integrate with, and others we use in our own business efforts. Our open platform makes it easy for partners to join our community, and they give us insights into emerging technologies. We are keenly interested in any technologies that help us fulfill our mission of helping customers more successfully engage their customers and enhance the buyer’s journey. In particular, the ways in which we use data to enhance the consumer viewing experience (e.g. by knowing more about the viewer and using that knowledge to personalize the experience) are interesting.

What marketing and sales automation tools and technologies do you currently use?

From a product offering side, the Brightcove platform integrates with the biggest marketing and sales automation platforms including Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, and Oracle Eloqua. We leverage many of these same tools and technologies for our own marketing and sales teams. Additional technologies we leverage for our own marketing and sales efforts include Engagio, Demandbase, Tableau, Google Analytics, and Slack – to name just a few.

What are your predictions on the most influential disruptions in Content Marketing powered by AI/Machine Learning?

The most influential disruptions in content marketing powered by AI/machine learning will center around personalizing the experience based on consumer preferences. Today’s consumer expects relevant content, and when they get something totally unrelated to their interests, they get frustrated or move on to someone else who is providing a more relevant, personalized experience. This personalization is the promise of AI and machine learning for content marketing.

Could you tell us about an outstanding digital campaign at Brightcove? 

Our demand gen team recently had tremendous success with a digital campaign that we refer to as the “Meet Your Account Manager” campaign. Brightcove Account Managers (AMs) are responsible for making sure their customers are successful in getting real value from our products. When customers succeed, our retention rates are strong and our business with them expands. This incentivizes us to ensure that we build strong Account Manager – customer relationships.

The “Meet Your Account Manager” initiative was designed to support those relationships. For this campaign, our marketing team shot individual videos of our account managers introducing themselves, explaining their role at Brightcove and describing why they enjoy it. From there the team crafted personalized emails which were sent from the AM themselves. Upon email click-through, recipients were guided to a landing page containing the video introduction. Our Audience technology then passes that information through Brightcove’s robust integration to Eloqua, where that data is matched to a specific content and then pass into our CRM, Salesforce. This campaign resulted in an incredible 224% open rate, 38% unique open rate, 16% CTR, and significant pipeline creation.

How do you prepare for an AI-centric world as a business leader?

We prepare by making sure that our platform is built in an open and customizable way so that as emerging AI technologies mature, we can easily incorporate them into our core platform with our own innovations. We also work closely with customers on the leading edge of implementing AI to understand what they are doing and what kind of results they are achieving.

How do you inspire your people to work with technology?

World-class software doesn’t force the user to argue and negotiate with the product to achieve his or her result. The product is an extension of the way they think, the way they approach their job. It’s really hard to do – and this is why only a handful of companies do it well. For me, the ideal product in simplicity is a Wet-Nap. Its only instructions are to “open and use”. That is how easy our experience must be. It is exciting to share and discuss brilliant design; you see it everywhere. It need not just be software. And when you set that as your goal, you’ll make leapfrog improvements, while still not quite getting to the finish line. There is always room for improvement, and the angst that drives that can be healthy.

One word that best describes how you work

That’s easy: Team. A great team can withstand any body-blows that come its way. No matter how brilliant the strategy, or how powerful the execution machine, a business will deal with surprises daily. How it responds to those events – specifically, how its teams respond – will determine its long-term success. Once you have been part of a dynamic, healthy team, you will move heaven and earth to recreate that in your next role.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

I won’t go into a meeting on budgets or finances without my tried and true HP 12C financial calculator. It has been by my side since 1989. Pandora and Discovr for music. Nest for home. OpenTable and Vivino for food and wine. GuitarTricks for music lessons. Flipboard for news. Google Translate when traveling. MyRadarPro for marine weather when on the boat. And one of our customer’s apps for home improvement help, The Home Depot. Really!

What’s your smartest work related shortcut or productivity hack?

Asking really smart people around me for help. Staying close to my outside mentor, who has helped me for over thirty years.

What are you currently reading? 

I’m a voracious book reader. I feel sorry for the algorithms at Amazon Kindle that try to predict my interests; I’m all over the road. “Principles”, by Ray Dalio; a powerful book on life’s lessons. “Nudge”, by Thaler and Sunstein, on decision-making. “A Perfect Mess”, by David Larabee, a telling narrative on the state of America’s Higher Ed system. “Thank You for Being Late”, by Thomas Friedman, a commentary on the speed of change. “Last Days of Night”, by Graham Moore, a fascinating historical novel about Edison, Westinghouse, and Tesla, and the battle for establishing the electricity generation and distribution standards for America. And a classic that I re-read every few years, “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, by Patrick Lencioni, the veritable bible on healthy teamwork and relationships.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

On life and working with people, be quick to say “I’m sorry”. It changes the whole dynamic of a tense situation. And, “as a leader, you must be fair and consistent. If you cannot be fair, be consistent”.

Something you do better than others – the secret of your success?

I hire and surround myself with people who scare me; who are so darned great at their jobs that it is a joy to give them my best – and expect the best from them, too

Tag the one person (or more) in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:

Sir Richard Branson. I hosted him as a keynote speaker several years ago and was energized by his passion and sense of curiosity in anything that improves the human condition, from the customer experience at Virgin Atlantic, all the way to eliminating famine and disease in Africa.

Thank you, Jeff! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.

Jeff Ray brings a decades-long track record of technology leadership and accomplishments as a CEO and senior executive. He has excelled in executive leadership roles at multiple enterprise technology companies of scale, including Ellucian, Ventyx (acquired by ABB), DS SolidWorks, Progress Software, Compuware, and IBM. Jeff has demonstrated an ability to enhance go-to-market strategies, scale enterprises, and expand business opportunities at global technology companies. Jeff earned his Bachelor of Science in Economics from Texas A&M University.

Brightcove Inc. is the leading global provider of powerful cloud solutions for managing, delivering, and monetizing video experiences on every screen. A pioneering force in the world of online video since the company’s founding in 2004, Brightcove’s award-winning technology, unparalleled services, extensive partner ecosystem, and proven global scale have helped thousands of companies in over 70 countries achieve better business results with video.

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The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.

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