Part 2 of Episode 6 on Sirius XM Channel 111: Steve Weinstein and Venk Shukla

My guests on Bay Area Ventures on Wharton Business Radio on Sirius XM Channel 111 were:

Part 1 of this post, here, was how Errol Arkilic and the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps changed the way the U.S. government commercializes science.

Part 2, this post is my interview with Steve Weinstein and Venk Shukla. I spoke with Steve about innovation in the movie industry, and to Venk about his journey from bureaucrat in India to entrepreneur here in the U.S., and his work helping other Indian entrepreneurs through TiE, the Indus Entrepreneur network.

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here(And download any of the past shows here.)

Steve Weinstein is the CEO and founder of MovieLabs, the research consortium for the six Hollywood major studios. Steve WeinsteinMovieLabs is researching how to redefine the movie experience, advance content distribution, and understand media consumers. Steve also teaches my Lean LaunchPad course at Berkeley and Stanford, and is the cofounder of Kinetrope, a product design shop working on bringing to market devices in the area of entertainment and IoT.

Previously, Steve was CTO at Deluxe Entertainment, the provider of production, post-production and distribution services to the movie and TV industry; and EVP and Chief Strategy and Technology Officer at Rovi, where he led the media company’s transition from physical technologies to e-commerce, connected home and subscription services. Additionally, Steve has held executive-level positions at Vicinity (a mapping company,) Microprose/Spectrum HoloByte (console and PC game company), Electronics for Imaging (print processing), and Media Cybernetics (image processing).  He also was chief architect at Ship Analytics for ship, sub and helicopter trainers. Steve started his career at Naval Research Laboratory in advanced signal processing, computer language design, and real time os development. Steve has been around the block!

Listen to my full interview with Steve here

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Click on the links below to hear Steve discuss

Why movie studios need an R&D lab
“Back in 2005 … (movie studios) were very worried about piracy, and were also worried that the whole digital world was coming on like a freight train and they really didn’t understand it.

Piracy has stabilized (like) the way that theft from ..Wal-Mart – when you walk out the door with a product – but digital (theft) obviously has gone on in ways that we can’t imagine. Also, (the studios wanted to know) how to think about your customer, how you make products for that customer and what the experience should be like.  …

(MovieLabs has) created things like UltraViolet, which is a joint studio effort. We’ve done standards, basically an ISBN number for the studios, common ways of thinking about customers, new ways to do production, how tell someone a movie’s available, not available … lots of different things that studios could agree on.”  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here 

3D technology in theaters and at home
“When you think about the theatrical experience, {studios are) trying to make it more important than just giving you a drink holder and a better chair. … Theatrical – going to the movies — has been basically flat in terms of growth. People have other things to do and so 3D was (the studios) first attempt to improve it. And it worked reasonably well on some big tent-pole movies, you know Avengers-style movies, movies that are fantastical, and you can do a new world … action movies.

But it doesn’t work so well in the home because you have to wear glasses. … Everybody (watching at home) now uses three screens. 1) You’re watching your TV while 2) you’re watching your tablet while 3) you’re getting text-messages on your phone. …  The number of people doing that is well over 40 percent right now. … and the other problem is that people don’t only watch movies on their TV. They watch it on their iPad and their phone. Mobile is big even for the studios, which brings up a lot of issues.  3D didn’t work out in the home.”  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Virtual reality
“For first-person shooter games … and the porn industry –  it’s obviously going to be good… All of the studios are experimenting with virtual reality. They do think it’s a tool that might be in their tool chest as an output device.

(However,) if you’ve used Virtual Reality, currently about 20 minutes is your limit because you get disoriented, at least a lot of people do. (It effects some people) the way that some people didn’t like 3D because their eyes… couldn’t see the 3D effect, Virtual Reality has also an effect that way. It’s also isolating. You’re sitting there will a helmet on and you have no other visual stimuli so it’s a little confusing to the brain. … It tracks your head, so when you turn right you see the scene to the right and you turn left you see the scene to the left, up and down. And so it’s great for walk-throughs. Kind of VR effects going on a rollercoaster or jumping out of an airplane, these things look spectacular. … But it’s definitely not for long-term content, like over 10 minutes, 15 minutes. But you’ll see all the studios put out two-minute teasers behind the scenes of Stars Wars or things like that.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Drones as part of Moviemaking
“If you watch any movies, any of these shots that are aerial, any shots that require flying through a room, or (currently require) trucks driving with (cameras on) hook and ladders or on the top of  cherry pickers, now you can set up a commercial drone … and you can do quite a spectacular special effect shot basically for a little money.

Remember, years ago The Sound of Music showed Julie Andrews? That was an incredibly hard shot where they show her up on the mountain with a 360? Now you can do that yourself. … There are drone companies. Everything now in production is a service, so there are drone services. … That will be one of the few thing that are starting to decrease the cost of a movie because you can have effects you couldn’t have before.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

Is Ownership of Movies Dead?
Ownership is in transition. … Ownership of movies for collectors, when it was physical media, meant something. You had something on your shelf. Now ownership is in transition. It’s not so different than watching rentals, so the studios are working on lots of different ideas. Do you give a behind-the-scenes tour if you own the movies? Do you get access to other stuff that makes you live the movie rather than just watch the movie? And I think you’ll see over the next year quite a lot happening in that regard. … Some people are OK with rental, some people are OK with subscription and I think ownership you’ll see in the next year or two start to gain back … if the studios make some things you really want.

Remember a lot of movies are environments. … ComicCon’s going on now, you know people dressing up as people, it used to be a comic trade show, but how it’s a place for popular culture. People live and experience movies, you know Harry Potter franchise, the Fast and Furious franchise, the Star Wars franchise. So people want more, they want to be part of the environment, and I think that’s what you’ll see with ownership.

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

In the next segment, I spoke with Venk Shukla about his journey from bureaucrat in India to Silicon Valley entrepreneur.

Venk Shukla has worked in numerous early-stage companies as an executive, investor, board member, or advisor. Venk ShuklaCurrently he’s general partner with Monta Vista Capital, and president of The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE), a 21-year-old  global nonprofit that promote wealth creation through entrepreneurship. Venk also started a CIO Forum, which connects 25 CIOs from companies such as Costco, WalMart, Clorox, GE Capital, HCA Health Care and others with the most innovative B2B companies in the Valley. In addition, he is the founding chair and active member of TiE Angels, one of the most active Angel investor groups in the Valley with 140 members and 26 investments in the last three years, mostly in the B2B space.

Venk started his career as a civil servant in the equivalent of the IRS in India, after receiving his degree in electronics engineering and working briefly in the Indian Space Research Organization.

Listen to my full interview with Venk here

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Click the links below to hear Venk discuss 

Coming to America
“I didn’t want to come to the U.S. My sister was already here but I was having fun in India and I had no ambition (to come here.) My sister was frustrated because she thought every electronics engineer should be in this country. … So what did I do? If you were an ambitious young man in India at that time, Civil Service used to be a massive deal. It still is, but it’s not as big a deal as it used to be in those days. So I took the Civil Service exam. It was an 18-month-long exam process, 24 months actually… At the end of it they pick only about 500 people. And then you’re put in a year and half of training in different stuff. Then you are straightaway put into middle management jobs. If you didn’t come through this program, then it would take you 16, 18 years to get there. … So at the age of 22 or 23, I was investigating corruption charges against the governor of the state where I was posted.

… I continued to have fun until I got married. It was an arranged marriage and my wife was a mechanical engineer here at Berkeley. It turns out that despite all the assurances that I was given, she had absolutely zero intention of moving to India. So essentially we had a decision to make. I always wanted to come to the U.S. to do my MBA, so I compromised and after about 18 months of living apart…  I’ll come and do my MBA and then we’ll decide. And that was a big mistake because each step that you take has its logical consequence. … They gave me study leave, they gave me salary during time. I went to the Sloan School at MIT. But then I didn’t have enough money, so I had to borrow money to go to school and once you finished school, if you wanted to go back to civil service in India, but there was no way you could pay back the loan in your entire life. So I said OK, I’ll work here for a while, pay off the loan and then go to India. But once you start working here … it never happened. She won. Basically she won.”  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

First encounter with big corporate executive
“I went with my boss to make my very first sales call.  (It was) General Dynamics in San Diego, a big defense contractor and the guy that we were meeting, he had a huge table sitting on an elevated platform and we could see him from outside but he would not usher us in. We had to wait until his secretary took us inside and then he acknowledged our existence. And his wall was filled with trophies and guns and this and that, and he was literally sitting one foot above the rest of us on a huge table. At the end of the meeting, when we came out, my boss asked me — I was still under training — “So what kind of a person was he?” He expected to give me this framework – amiable, rational… I said, ‘He was an asshole.’ ”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

What it was like to do a startup
“The first impression, coming from a big company to a startup, was that every single decision that I made on a daily basis had an impact and that was a very, very intoxicating feeling. … Everything that I did had an impact and it was a tangible impact. In a big company when you go through these meetings and meetings and meetings, you feel like you’re a cog in a wheel and the real impact, which is varied, is in terms of product or in terms of customers.  You get lost somewhere in between that.”

If you can’t hear the clip, click here.

What is TiE ?
“In ’92, these 8 or 10 guys who were successful beyond their wildest dreams … all Indians, they got together at the airport because they’d come to meet some minister from India and his flight didn’t show up but they’re at the airport and decided to talk to each other. When they started exchanging notes, they all came to same to the conclusion, that it’s very hard for Indians to get funded.

It’s hard to believe now but in ’92 that was the perception, that Indians make good VPs of technology and CTOs but they should get a professional manager, which typically at that time they’d get a white guy from a big company to be a CEO. … So they started this group with three basic principles; Number one is that wealth creation is a noble activity and coming from India, which is a socialist economy, this was a big statement to make. … Number 2, was that the best way to create wealth is through entrepreneurship. Now, everybody in the world agrees with these two principles. The way TiE was different was really with the third principle, that the best way to promote entrepreneurship is for successful people to roll up their sleeves and help those who aspire to be successful. …There is not other organization in the world that is like TiE right now. …There’s no organization that combines highly successful people with those who want to be successful.  

If you can’t hear the clip, click here

Listen to the full interviews by downloading them from SoundCloud here and here(And download any of the past shows here.)

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