An animated chairman

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Age: 41.
Title: Chairman of the board, Pulse Entertainment.
Location: San Francisco.
Employees: 85.
Financial backers: Softbank, Time Warner.
Competitors: Viewpoint Data Labs.
Even though he’s a founding father of some of today’s most high-profile tech companies, don’t call Bill Woodward “Daddy.”
“I’m very entrepreneurial. I’ll try something different because it excites me,” he said. “But I’m not like a lot of people who say, `I want to be the father of something.’ I’ve worked with a man who’s considered one of the fathers of the Internet, and I don’t think that’s appropriate here.”
Some might disagree, considering the companies he has helped create. In 1991, his authoring and animation company, Paracomp, merged with Macromind and Authorware to create Macromedia-now one of the biggest heavy-hitters in multimedia software. The USC graduate was also a founding board member of Launch Media, a high-profile multimedia publisher of music news and information.
These days, the Woodward creation making the biggest splash in the convergent media industry is Pulse Entertainment.
Several years ago, some programmers Mr. Woodward had worked with at Macromedia came to him and said, “Let’s put the band back together,” he recalled.
The newly created Pulse would allow real-time rendering of graphics for different devices. Even though it was only 1994, the Internet was part of the company’s original business plan. But the engineers needed another medium to show off their work until the Internet gained widespread use. “The only place you could do it was in the video game business, so we made some games that pushed our technology along,” Mr. Woodward said.
In Pulse’s early years, Mr. Woodward served as CEO, focusing on business development and securing more than $19 million in funding.
Meanwhile, Pulse’s engineers began developing 3-D technology for the Web. Products included software to help designers create interactive 3-D characters, a plug-in allowing Web users to interact with those characters, and software that lets developers maximize file space to reach a goal of real-time interactivity.
Today at Pulse, Mr. Woodward is an active chairman of the board, guiding the company’s strategic maneuverings. Pulse specializes in helping companies create interactive characters for entertainment, e-commerce, e-learning and online advertising.
Recently, for example, NutriSystem executives were impressed by the widely circulated e-mail featuring a dancing baby Pulse created that also appeared on episodes of “Ally McBeal.” They wanted Pulse to create an online character who could show how to correctly perform exercises. Pulse’s commitment to perfecting the precise movements of the online trainer impressed the executives and helped many shy clients feel confident enough to include those exercises in their routines, said NutriSystem’s head of e-commerce, Deborah Gallen.
Pulse’s mission to extend brands through 3-D technology also impressed Anheuser-Busch’s Tim Schoen, who handles Internet marketing. Pulse developed online cards for Budweiser.com featuring an interactive 3-D alien-who says “Whassup?”-from one of the beer company’s Super Bowl commercials. Other clients include The Jim Henson Co., Mattel and Warner Bros.
In addition to proving itself with such impressive clientele, Mr. Woodward said Pulse is poised to survive the current tech roll-up
because of its proprietary technology, which can be used for a wide variety of purposes, coupled with its strong management team.
Even in the face of a slowdown, don’t expect Mr. Woodward to stop looking for new opportunities: “I consider myself an entrepreneur,” he said.