My Media Week: Suranga Chandratillake

Foodie and founder of online video server Blinkx talks digital talent, living in California, site revamps and bunny story duties, courtesy of his one-year-old son.

Suranga Chandratillake: founder of Blinkx
Suranga Chandratillake: founder of Blinkx

Monday

The week kicks off ambitiously with 8am sales calls to the US and UK teams.

It’s an exciting time towards the end of the quarter – we’re racing to close business and the clock is ticking.

It’s also interesting to gain insight into the next few months from a sales perspective, seeing the foundations laid for new deals. We’re trying to grow the London team – so, if you know of any great talent…

Later that morning, I interview three developer candidates. We’re obsessive about the interview process, putting an average candidate through at least five rounds before hiring. We’re looking for the perfect DNA. I really appreciate that we’re still small enough that I can be involved in this process.

I enjoy a late lunch at Market Bar with one of our board members who is in town from London. All the ingredients are organic and locally sourced – one of the great things about living in California. Also, my son just turned one, so it’s refreshing to have the occasional grown-up meal that doesn’t require protective clothing.

I round off the day by catching up on email and reviewing mock-ups for a revamp of part of the Blinkx site. Then it’s off home, where I whip up a lamb-and-couscous dinner. Cooking is a major passion of mine.

 Tuesday

Lots of morning calls to plough through again. Because of the time difference between San Francisco and the UK, my days tend to be stacked that way, but I’m a lively morning person – especially since we got an espresso machine for the office.

Next up is a weekly management meeting. Although most of us sit within arm’s reach of one another, things get so hectic that we need to be in one room to catch up on priorities. We spend half the time running through travel schedules for the upcoming weeks – a sure sign of how busy we are at this time of the year.

Next up – more candidate interviews. We’re aggressively growing our tech team, so finding the right people is a top priority. There are stacks of opportunities in the Valley, so we have to move fast.

In the afternoon, I sit down over sandwiches with our chief technology officer, Matt Scheybeler, to review patents and get an update on the submission and approval status. It’s detailed, complicated and not very exciting work – but thoroughly necessary. At least the sandwiches are good.

Belly filled, I head to the airport to fly to Chicago to meet with one of our sales execs. When I arrive that evening, it is 30 degrees and sleeting – another reason to love California.

Exhausted, I close the day with a 10:30pm board call for a non-profit group I work with called Rang De, a micro-finance organisation in India, which works to alleviate poverty by facilitating micro-loans to underserved communities.

Wednesday

The day starts with a catch-up call to our chief marketing officer, Julia Blystone, on this week’s YouView content partnership announcement.  We’re working as part of the industry advisory group helping to shape and test the processes for making content and services available through the YouView platform.

I head downtown to meet one of our sales team and then it’s off to the agencies to talk online video. We sit down with a variety of teams and individuals at Mindshare, OMD and Starcom, including Ben Eng, strategy director at OMD, and Brandon Starkoff, senior vice-president at Starcom. Like most agencies, they are generally split between search and branding, so video search, being a bit of both, is popular.

One issue that comes across loud and clear is that the lack of standards in online video can make it hard for agencies to plan efficiently. We discuss potential solutions and strategies to redouble efforts within relevant industry bodies to address this challenge.

I wrap up the day with a friend and former colleague who moved out here some years ago – beer and Chicago-style pizza, naturally. I normally favour thin-crust Italian pizza, but this almost converts me.

Thursday

The day of three lunches – sushi and then sandwiches with two teams at Starcom, followed by dim-sum with Julie, our sales exec.

Thankfully, the weather stays sunny and we’re spared the threatened snowstorm, but it’s bitterly cold and the Windy City does not disappoint. I walk six blocks – between meetings on the phone – and, for once, am thankful for my overheating iPhone, which keeps my ear warm.

In the afternoon, I catch up with Rafiq Mohammadi, chief executive of Interwoven (acquired by Autonomy two years ago). We moan about the difficulties of hiring in places like Cambridge and Silicon Valley.

It sounds as though it's much easier in Chicago because there aren't that many tech companies there. Chicago attracts only just more venture capital than Mississippi apparently! Having said that, Groupon is turning into a talent hoover.

My flight home is delayed, par for the course when travelling through the second busiest airport in the US, so I find a quiet(ish) corner and hit the phone.

Finally, safely en route to San Francisco, I extract my iPad and open the New Yorker. It’s a publication I didn’t really know before moving to the US, but I really enjoy its variety of articles and terrific writing.

Friday

At breakfast, my one-year-old son slam-dunks his miniature foam basketball the way I’ve been teaching him – it is undoubtedly my week’s finest achievement.

I arrive to more interviews with potential new hires. One of them started his own company in his twenties and recently worked on the latest parts of the Xbox platform at Microsoft. Exactly the kind of person we'd love to have at Blinkx.

Mid-morning caffeine fix is with Tim Turpin, who heads up the team at our US PR agency, Spark PR.  We’ve worked with him since launching seven years ago.

Hunger calls and I head out for lunch with Tom Taulli, a friend and reporter for Forbes, who has recently moved from LA to the Bay Area to be closer to the action.

Whenever possible, I reserve Friday afternoons for blue sky planning meetings, and today I see my chief technology officer, head of strategy, and vice-president of engineering. Our focus is a new development platform that we think will dramatically impact how fast we can get new applications and functionality up and running on blinkx.com.

I make a rare escape at 5:30pm and head home for Japanese food with my wife and friends, and probably a reading of 'Pat the Bunny'. My media consumption spans quite the gamut these days.

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