User interfaces on cell phones, cable boxes and other electronic devices have never been accused of being sexy. Instead they’ve been merely functional signposts pointing users to their desired content. But Bluestreak Technology‘s Adobe Flash-powered platform, MachBlue, leverages its small memory footprint to spice things up. End-users can now enjoy enhanced mobile TV features, 3D-like treatments of menu options and remote access to their computers among other goodies. The privately held, seven-year-old outfit (no plans to go public at the moment) is competing in this developing market with both larger firms, such as Broadcom and Adobe itself, and other upstarts like England’s Pace and Ekioh. According to President and CEO Dominique Jodoin, it’s so far, so good, with year-over-year revenue growth up 50%-75%. Jodoin discusses the company’s biggest challenges, Canada’s technology brain power and a personal pursuit that’s every bit as dangerous as the business world.
What is the greatest challenge currently facing Bluestreak and what are you doing about it?
To grow from a very small company to a medium-sized one, and this is not a given. We are a small firm with 65 people. There is considerable demand for our product, and we’re in a great position, but to grow in an organized way is our No. 1 challenge. We have to pick our customers carefully. Also important is recruiting the types of engineers we need to develop our product. It’s not easy to find engineers who have worked in the embedded space before, and it’s even harder to find engineers who have worked in Flash embedded.
Who else — person or company — do you feel is doing innovative work and in what way?
Adobe, with their tools in Flash. They are also innovating tools to do 3D animation and to bring much more vibrant content to all sorts of devices. They also have, as we do, a vision of a multi-screen approach, which means a product can be used by an operator such as Rogers to offer their content across all their products with the same look and feel.
How would you describe your leadership approach/style?
I foster constant openness and constant discussion, especially among the management team, which then sets the tone for the rest of the team. We talk to each other 10 or 20 times a day, we try to walk the corridors and try to meet together a lot. We meet every week formally as well.
Your technology, and therefore your business, is largely based on Adobe’s Flash technology, but you don’t have a direct relationship with Adobe or any input into Flash’s development. Is there any unease about being so dependent on a technology you don’t control?
We are dependent on Adobe continuing to develop Flash and their tools, no doubt about that, but we don’t believe Flash will disappear. Quite the contrary — it’s expanding. But we keep an eye on other technologies, such as HTML 5. We have some research projects going on to see if we should bring to our product suite a function to be able to do HTML.
Recently, the federal government opted not to attempt to block the sale of Nortel’s wireless assets to Sweden-based Ericsson. What role do you feel government should play in ensuring technology developed in this country, and the brain power behind it, stays here?
I think the government has some role to play, but it should be a very minor one, in the background. It should not, however, be a complete free-for-all. I lived in New Zealand for a few years where the market has been completely deregulated, and you had some negative effects: the big guys had the biggest lawyers [and ended up getting their way].
You’ve been a mountain climber for 30 years. What was your most memorable climb?
I spent a few summers in the Canadian Rockies, another in the Alps, and last summer I was climbing in southern France with my daughter. But my favourite one was probably Mount Cook in New Zealand, which I climbed in 1994. It’s the highest summit in New Zealand and the people in my group and I were the first Quebeckers to do that.