Ottawa’s Ross Video unveils new acquisition at annual broadcasters’ convention

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Ross Video CEO David Ross. File photo.

With the thermometer already reading a balmy 15 degrees Celsius Wednesday at 9 a.m. on a sunny Las Vegas morning, David Ross wasn’t bummed out in the least that he’d be spending the day cooped up in a convention centre.

The CEO of Ross Video isn’t in Sin City for the sightseeing, after all. He’s down in Vegas this week at the NAB Show, the annual convention of the National Association of Broadcasters ​– perhaps the most important event of the year for Ross Video and companies like it that count on the CNNs and NBCs of the world for a big chunk of their sales.

“We do about 80 trade shows a year, but this our big one,” Ross said in a quick interview with OBJ Wednesday in between visits with customers. “This is our Super Bowl.”

Less than two weeks after announcing the firm’s 14th acquisition in the past 10 years, a deal for U.K.-based Piero Sports Graphics, Ross was beaming about the reaction to Ross Video’s reveal of its 13th buy of the decade – a transaction that actually closed in November but wasn’t made public until Sunday night in Vegas.

Following the M&A playbook

The firm Ross Video acquired, Utah-based Portalis, fits perfectly into the David Ross M&A playbook: a small firm with fewer than 20 employees that manufactures niche video technology.

“This ties in very closely with multiple things that we already do,” Ross said. “It wasn’t a high-risk kind of thing for us.”

Portalis’s system allows users who need to keep track of action on dozens or even hundreds of computer monitors to put all those screens onto one “super desktop,” moving around windows as necessary with the ability to hide and reopen them like internet tabs.

“That’s the sort of company I like to buy,” said Ross, OBJ’s CEO of the Year in 2016. “I look at a lot of companies that are already at the early stages and they need help. They’ve done something really cool, but they need us to take them to the next level. It’s like venture capital, but the difference is I have a 100 per cent success rate.”

Portalis’s customers include broadcasters, churches and clients in the military and financial sectors. Ross says a “steady stream” of curious onlookers have been checking out the firm’s technology on the convention floor this week – a good sign considering most of those visitors are also potential customers.

“With our sales reach, we’re pretty excited about where this is and where we can take it,” he said.

Ross says he held off on announcing the deal until Ross Video’s manufacturing plant in Iroquois, south of Ottawa, was ready to ramp up production of the company’s newest offering.

“There was a lot of logistics to make that happen,” he explains.

Now at more than 700 employees and well on the way to hitting its target of 800 by year-end, Ross Video plans to add to its R&D and manufacturing headcount in eastern Ontario as a result of the Portalis acquisition.

Acquisition pipeline still open

But anyone expecting the company to stop and catch its breath after making two deals in such short order might want to think again. Before signing off Wednesday, Ross said his favourite part of the NAB Show is coming up Thursday, when most visitors depart and the exhibitors themselves finally get a chance to check out each other’s wares.

The CEO said he’s looking forward to “visiting with a number of opportunities that could be acquisition No. 15. And I’ve got a few in mind. Some of them are really cool.”

It’s just another week in the life of one of the region’s busiest executives.

“When you have a dozen product lines that are all saying that they could be as big as everything we already do, it makes for an interesting company,” Ross said. “It’s actually just getting more and more fun.”