20th Anniversary Blog: Q&A with Thomas Lind, founder and Product Management Director

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Interview with Thomas Lind, Founder and Product Management Director

In this second Q&A marking our 20th anniversary, Thomas Lind, Product Management Director and one of Appear’s founding members, delves into the origins, trials, and breakthroughs of our history, shedding light on the evolution from a pioneering startup to a leader in the MediaTech industry.

Introduction and Background

Interviewer: Can you share a bit about your background and what led you to co-found Appear?

Thomas Lind: All 11 founders were former Tandberg Television employees and had been working in the professional live video distribution within sales, technical sales, and development. Due to internal restructuring, we saw a unique opportunity to start from fresh with a completely new product design concept that we believed would revolutionise the way professional live video was distributed to consumers. We had a clear business plan for how we could start by converting digital video to analogue based on a hardware platform that could be expanded to cover all video processing ports to distribute digital and analogue video to consumers.

Interviewer: What were the initial challenges you faced in the early days of Appear, and how did you overcome them?

Thomas Lind: Apart from the well-known challenges of securing funding, the main challenge involved building a new hardware platform from scratch with limited financial resources. There were of course a few technological setbacks along the way, but in the end, we managed to deliver what was planned and almost on time. It is heartening to see that the platform we designed and developed 20 years ago is still being used by operators around the world.

Product and Technology Innovations

Interviewer: Over the past 20 years, Appear has been at the forefront of technological innovation in MediaTech. Could you highlight some of the key innovations that have defined Appear’s journey?

Thomas Lind: Before we launched the XC Platform – our first digital head-end used by operators – the only available solutions necessitated the integration of multiple components, where frequently, each component was limited to managing one or just a few channels at a time. As a result, head-ends required a large amount of rack space and power footprint. The XC Platform disrupted the market because of its innovative design that combined multiple functions, making it able to handle hundreds of channels in one single chassis. In addition, we built something unique at the time: a built-in control system combined with integrated IP redundancy that removed the need for a complex management system. It enabled operators to design Appear’s head-end where they could select best-of-breed technology from any vendor and easily combine them.

Interviewer: How has Appear’s emphasis on modularity and functional versatility influenced the development of our solutions for media processing and content delivery?

Thomas Lind: Our approach has radically changed the way digital head-ends are designed and has been at the heart of the products and solutions we have developed since 2004. Our focus on reducing complexity through a combination of features, modularity and functional versatility is a game-changer for our customers who, by customising our solutions to meet their operational needs, reduce their operating costs, energy consumption and rack space.

Proudest Moments

Interviewer: Reflecting on the past two decades, what are some of your proudest moments with Appear?

Thomas Lind: That is a difficult question since there have been so many! Obviously the first big customer sales in 2005 and the first year we went broke even in 2007. Another great moment was when we won the export business of the year in 2010 – I think that’s when we realised we were on the right track. But there have been so many enjoyable and exciting moments over the past 20 years, both technically and commercially, that it’s hard to list them all.

Interviewer: How has the collaboration and feedback from Appear’s global customer base shaped the company’s direction and innovations?

Thomas Lind: At the time of our departure from Tandberg Television, we acknowledged the critical need to maintain proximity to our customers and deliver exceptional support. Tandberg had become preoccupied with chasing new sales and lost focus on crafting high-quality products, plunging the business into a reactive “fire-fighting” mode and eroding the trust of our customers and the broader market. Consequently, in Appear’s inaugural year, despite having a comprehensive vision for our product portfolio, we committed to developing our solutions in close collaboration with our customers. We made a strategic decision to prioritise support issues above new product development. This approach not only helped us forge robust relationships with our clients but also earned us respect and recognition within the industry and from our peers.

The Future of Live Production Technology

Interviewer: Looking forward, how do you see live production technology evolving in the next few years?

Thomas Lind: That is an interesting question. As with any key new technology, when a new trend emerges, all stakeholders take an immediate interest, but then their vision and use of the new technology becomes more balanced. For example, when cloud computing was first introduced, many thought it would mean the death of hardware dedicated to the production and distribution of live video. But as our understanding of the technology has grown, this view is now more balanced and the focus is on using the best technology to solve the business need you have, regardless of whether it’s a generic cloud, dedicated hardware or hybrid solution. The key issues that trigger technology choices are the business model (CAPEX/OPEX), operational requirements, utilisation, energy consumption and available network infrastructure. I think the future will bring even more solutions based on a combination of generic computing and hardware acceleration where needed. Remote production is still in its early stages of deployment, but it will accelerate over the coming years. As the deployment of remote production increases, the technology will evolve and the software and hardware will be optimised to achieve the best performance at a lower cost of ownership.

Interviewer: With the dynamics of media, entertainment, and sports industries continuously evolving, what role do you see Appear playing in shaping the future of live production technology?

Thomas Lind: Appear aims to lead the future of live production technology. It’s an ambitious goal, but I am confident that by maintaining our focus and leveraging the remarkable momentum we’ve garnered, both in commercial success and product innovation, we can realise this goal. Our strength lies in our deep understanding of broadcast technology, coupled with a dedicated and successful sales force. I believe this gives us a unique opportunity to leverage our hardware and software skills to deliver market-leading solutions for live production.

Interviewer: What are the next big steps for Appear in terms of product development?

Thomas Lind: Our intention is to develop a product portfolio that covers cloud-based applications, focusing on the reception, pre-processing and transmission of live video for remote production.

Personal Insights and Advice

Interviewer: As a founder and Chief Product Officer, what advice would you give to recent graduates aspiring to innovate in the tech industry?

Thomas Lind: First of all, make sure you have a good idea for a product that is unique. It’s very difficult to break into a market with a “me too” product, where you’re only competing on price. Next, make sure you understand the skills you lack and add them to your team.  For example, there’s no point in having an excellent product if you don’t have a good strategy for marketing it. Finally, be patient. Evaluate along the way and don’t be afraid to stop if you discover that some of the initial assumptions are no longer applicable.

Interviewer: How do you stay inspired and keep innovating in a field that is constantly changing?

Thomas Lind: It’s the constant evolution of technology that inspires me. When I stop learning from my colleagues, my customers and the industry on a daily basis, it will be time to do something else.

Learn more about our journey here. In this video our CEO Thomas Jørgensen shares insights into Appear’s journey, industry evolution, and sustainability focus. From roots in linear TV to pioneering live production solutions, discover how Appear is shaping the future. Hear about the company’s success in the US market, major sports event involvement, and plans for expansion in EMEA. Explore the X platform’s impact on reducing environmental footprint and Appear’s vision for 2024—embracing software services for live contribution and production.