In the movie Apollo 13, the ground crew pulled out all the stops to bring the seriously disabled Apollo spacecraft and its crew safely home to Earth.
That kind of approach to problem solving has a special appeal for Al Mattrick, director of business solutions at Vancouver's Interactive Netcasting Systems Inc. (INSINC). He says it represents how an eclectic group of people can accomplish something if they remain focused on a single goal.
INSINC is a provider of custom business applications based on streaming video/audio technology. The 14-person company has expertise in a number of key areas - database management, broadcasting, telecommunications and the Internet. That range of knowledge is making a difference for his company.
Mattrick himself comes out of the business side of the telecommunications industry, while John Rea, vice-president and general manager, is a former broadcast executive.
"In new media versus traditional, every single person has a dissimilar background," says INSINC president Hugh Dobbie, who has worked with computer-aided drafting and design and local area networks.
INSINC has snagged some high-profile clients in Canada and elsewhere, including Rogers Communications, SAP, Vancouver Television, CBS and Environment Canada.
Netcasting is more than pointing a video camera at a talking head and broadcasting over the Internet via a Web site. Good netcasting means fine-tuning the interactive elements to make the final presentation easy to access and view, says Mattrick.
A recent application designed for the German-based software company SAP makes it possible for sales and product presentations to be delivered to staff worldwide from SAP's Palo Alto, Calif.-based data centre. Chat and telephone participation is fully integrated into the application. With streaming technology, it is possible to mount a live event that is shown on a split PC screen, with the speaker appearing on one side and text or a slide presentation (of a product release or financial data) in another box. People in remote locations can type in responses to questions displayed in front of them.
"They press yes or no, which immediately goes back to the presenter, who might find, wow, only eight per cent of the people have read it [the product information]. He can then change the nature of his presentation," says Dobbie.
At first, he figured INSINC, which has a small television studio in Vancouver, would be producing a lot of corporate videos for Web sites. But there's been greater demand for netcasting of single one-off events of the SAP variety.
Technically, netcasting makes most sense when the topic is only of interest to a small group of people. Dobbie cites the example of Paul McCartney's recent concert in Liverpool, which he says should have been televised. Instead, it was broadcast live on an Internet site that received millions of hits and therefore was virtually impossible to access.
In contrast, INSINC successfully developed a narrow cast of an investors' meeting for the Rogers Communications Web site that was targeted at about 100 people.
As it seeks venture capital and considers going public, INSINC faces some significant hurdles. For instance, at this stage, streamed video clips are still easier to view on a broadband Internet connection. Also, some people apparently think the market will be taken over by large telcos.
"You guys are stupid to even try," is the kind of comment heard, says Dobbie. And INSINC is up against a host of U.S. competitors that service Canadian clients.
Another challenge comes from Microsoft's free video and audio conferencing product Netmeeting.
Kingston, Ont.-based consultant Bob Pritchard says one can receive a reasonable picture on a netcast with a 56Kbps modem, but there are trade-offs in all the products, adds Pritchard, citing jerkiness and reduced picture quality.
"It is usable but it's not like television."
INSINC recently hired a national account manager to operate out of Toronto. But as a small Internet start-up initially financed by friends and family, INSINC can't afford the expense of a large outbound sales force, says Dobbie.
In fact, he relies primarily on the INSINC Web site (www.insinc.ca), the personal connections of his staff and word of mouth to spread the news about his "value-added communications" company.
"We've had better success sitting back and waiting for inquiries."