Sometimes the best way to sell is to know what it's like to buy. For Isaac Hersly, who spent 17 years at ABC, that understanding translated into success both at Chyron and, for the past four years, at VizRT.
"I think it's been a tremendous advantage because it allows me to understand the sensitivities and requirements of a customer," he explains. "While the technology has changed, the problems and issues remain the same."
Return on investment, ensuring that people know how to operate and maintain the gear, and making certain that employees aren't uptight about embracing new technologies are all in that mix. Hersly dealt with those issues from his earliest days at ABC, where, as an equipment planner, he would evaluate equipment and make sure it would be fit into ABC's network facility. During his 17 years at ABC, he worked at both the station and network level, including serving as the corporation's first TV-station group vice president of engineering and operations.
"During my junior year in college, I heard that WABC(AM) New York was accepting applications for summer jobs, so I applied," says Hersly. "The radio station said no, but they sent me up to the television station on 66th
Street. I worked there and then, after graduating, asked if they had any open jobs. They did, and I ended up staying until 1986."
While there, he worked on a number of innovative projects, including building the first ENG truck for ABC. At that time, there were no truck vendors to turn to, so it had to be built from scratch. And whether it was working on wireless cameras for the Indy 500 or microwave setups at ABC, the goal was not only to confirm that things worked but to help management understand what the systems did and why they were important.
"That way," Hersly says, "they had a better idea of what the poor guy has to go through to make television happen."
After Capital Cities purchased ABC, Hersly was offered another position in the company but decided to take an opportunity at Chyron to serve as vice president of marketing and product planning. When he joined Chyron, its big product was the Chyron 4 character generator. In the years that followed, he would be closely involved in the introduction of Scribe and Infinit, two products that, in the early '90s, redefined character generation.
"One way we got customers to convert from the Chyron 4 was to have creative financing, and that wasn't a common practice back then," he says. "We also made sure we had a huge army of trained operators both at TV stations and in the field."
Today, Hersly is at real-time 3D-graphics software developer VizRT, a company that came into being in the merger of Pilot Systems and Peak Systems and was then purchased by virtual-set manufacturer RT Set. Pilot Systems had been a subsidiary of TV2 Norway, which developed a control system for a graphics-rendering engine built by Austrian-based Peak Systems. Hersly joined the company in 1999 to give it a U.S. presence, opening an office near its first U.S. customer, CBS. Today, its customer list includes a number of CNN networks and ESPN.
"When this was a startup company," he says, "my vision was to pursue something that would make 3D graphics more animated and elegant. And here we are, less than 10 years later, with the same family of people offering an off-the-shelf, real-time desktop graphics device."
Today, the company has overcome the stigma of being a software-only company and does about $25 million of business a year. Employees are being added, and the systems continue to expand to handle more back-office as well as front-office duties.—Ken Kerschbaumer