Streaming with a vision

Mar 5, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Age: 43.
Title: CEO PacketVideo Corp.
Location: San Diego.
Founded: 1998.
Employees: 300.
Investors: Credit Suisse First Boston, Intel Capital, Motorola, Nexus Group LLC, Philips, Qualcomm, Reuters Group PLC, members of the Rockefeller family, Siemens Mustang Ventures, Sonera, Sony Corp., Sun Microsystems, Texas Instruments, Time Warner and others.
Three years ago, at a critical point in PacketVideo’s development, CEO Jim Carol asked his staff whether they thought the company should design its streaming-video software for cable TV or wireless networks. He was surprised and a little dumbfounded to learn he was the only member of the staff who doubted that going full-steam ahead on the wireless path was the right idea.
But one of the key reasons Mr. Carol is so successful is his ability to find and nurture smart employees, and that team was no exception. Mr. Carol followed the group’s advice, taking the wireless route. Today San Diego-based PacketVideo is busy making deals with Columbia TriStar Television and Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment as well as Intel, Texas Instruments, Sprint and others. The company employs 300 and has gone from one office to 12.
Mr. Carol grew up in Pittsburgh and went to college at West Virginia Wesleyan, a small school in the center of the state that gave him a basketball scholarship. After graduation, he attended Marine Corps Officer Candidate School but declined the commission. One of his best buddies was selling word processors door to door and offered Mr. Carol a job. It was a job that pointed him in an entrepreneurial direction after he made more than $100,000 in his second year.
Not long afterward, Mr. Carol got married, and he and his wife, a tennis pro, bought a yogurt shop in Dana Point, Calif., for $20,000. They began selling pizza as well as yogurt, and business soared. Twelve months later they sold the store for $200,000. “We thought we had all the money in the world,” Mr. Carol said.
Soon afterward, Mr. Carol took a job selling mainframe computers for Digital Equipment Corp. He spent nine years there, and not once but twice he was the top salesperson of the year for the company. When he next went to Motorola to sell components, he became Motorola’s No. 1 salesperson in his first year.
Said Mr. Carol: “I’m a firm believer that the American dream can happen to anybody. I encourage everybody to take a risk, to give their ideas a try. It may not work out, but it will lead them to the next step.”
Today, both Mr. Carol’s former Motorola boss and the old friend who offered him the door-to-door sales job work at PacketVideo, which Mr. Carol started in 1998 with partner James Brailean, who serves as chief technology officer. In 1999 the company achieved a significant breakthrough by delivering video over existing 14.4 Kbps wireless data networks. Business took off from there.
Recently PacketVideo has been working closely with Sony Pictures Digital Entertainment to put content from soap operas on personal digital assistants and wireless phones. Mr. Carol is also working on some projects that extend the potential of wireless devices. One of the more intriguing prospects is a personals service that will notify registrants when someone whose profile matches what they’re looking for is in geographic proximity. The user is sent the image and the phone number of a match on his cellphone, and if he likes what he sees, he can make the call.
“We want to spur the imagination of content providers and show them that wireless multimedia can do whatever the consumer wants,” Mr. Carol said.
Mr. Carol, his wife, and their three children live in Laguna Niguel, Calif.
At PacketVideo, his goal is to get out of the way and let the company grow. “My real job is to create a wonderful environment for great people to thrive-an environment where great brains can deliver the goods,” he said.