Ottawa well-represented at Vegas electronics show

It’s the place where the VCR was first introduced in 1970. The compact disc player was unveiled there in 1981.

And while technology has changed since then, and seems to continue to do so on a daily basis, Las Vegas’s annual Consumer Electronics Show is still the place to be, according to one Ottawa CEO.

“Anybody in the tech industry, they’re all here,” said You.iTV’s Jason Flick from Las Vegas.

You.iTV recently unveiled an interface engine to power multi-screen video applications. Mr. Flick said even though his company has significantly changed its focus – and consequently its customer base – since it started six years ago, everyone that You.iTV needs to attract is still at the show, but not necessarily where you might think.

“It’s not even the floor that matters,” said Mr. Flick. “It’s the hotels packed full in the suites where a lot of the real business is happening. The floor show is becoming purely superficial, I think.”

In fact, with the four-day show closing Friday, Mr. Flick said that might be the day he finally gets to the floor. He has spent virtually his entire stay in the You.iTV suite.

“Yesterday was the craziest. A number of times we had three different meetings going on in our suite. It’s a good problem to have, and I’m bouncing between them,” he said, adding this is the first year the company booked a suite and he wasn’t sure it would have enough pull to get people to visit.

Perhaps many have taken notice of You.iTV’s recent deal with Sony that will see the company license the You.i engine for the Sony Crackle online video service.

Mr. Flick said the value of spending more time in the suites is that he can be selective about what he shows and who he shows it to.

“Part of it is you can show the stuff that isn’t quite there,” he said. “In the suites, we’re able to show people what is still under NDA because of certain constraints or isn’t quite done … People are more and more concerned about keeping what they’re doing hush until it hits the market, and yet, you’ve got to show people because nothing happens without 15 companies rallying around it to make it successful.”

At the same time, he said, it’s important to keep that information away from your competitors, something that’s pretty hard to do on the show floor.

In the suites, he said, there are opportunities to have have frank discussions and to find partners with which to align.

Collaborators are coming quickly for You.iTV, he said.

“We did get three major tier-one companies that are giving us verbals to go ahead,” he said, adding 2015 will be a busy year. “Paperwork always takes a few months, and then depending on how we negotiate the agreement, we either can or can’t announce them.

“Our big challenge is partnering this year. There is more business than we can possibly handle. Even if we kept hiring at the crazy rate of 30 or 40 people a quarter, we still wouldn’t be able to handle all the business we have. Good problems to have.”

While plenty of business gets done, there is still time for other things, such as the Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards held on Thursday night.

Ottawa was well-represented, with two local companies – UnLimi-Tech Software and Signiant – sharing the award for secure and accelerated file transfer, and a University of Ottawa grad, Jeopardy host Alex Trebek, serving as co-host.

UnLimi-Tech CEO Chris Bailey said he even worked Mr. Trebek’s Ottawa connection into his thank-you speech.

“I’ll probably never have this chance again, so Alex, the category is Canadian geography. This city boasts two technology Emmy Award winners and also, a university offered a philosophy degree to a well-known game show host.”

Mr. Trebek was actually not on stage at the time, so Mr. Bailey had to give the answer himself, but he said he still got a few laughs.

The Emmy Award was not a surprise for Mr. Bailey. It was actually announced five months ago, and things have gone “pretty much according to plan” since then, he says.

That includes increasing the company’s headcount to 24, creating more international partnerships, and preparing to continue its working relationship with NBC for the upcoming Super Bowl. NBC used UnLimi-Tech’s FileCatalyst product to transfer files at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 and is already talking about the work that lies ahead with the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

Back in August, Mr. Bailey said he hoped the award would open some eyes to his company, but Friday he said the award show wasn’t really the place to network.

That will happen in April, when he and his team are back in Las Vegas for the National Association of Broadcasters show.

“We’ll be showcasing the latest product updates and talking about the newest partnerships and newest customers,” said Mr. Bailey, adding it will be his company’s largest presence ever at the show.