SBJ/November 21-27, 2011/Idea Innovators

Priya Narasimhan, YinzCam

Photo: COURTESY OF YINZCAM

Define innovation: Going beyond what people imagine is possible today.

What’s the innovation you’re most proud of? YinzCam. When we started, wireless phones had one-third the capability they have today, and even with that technology we made video replays work.

What’s the future of your industry? Experiences within venues are going to become more personalized. Even the nosebleed seats will feel like a VIP experience.

What inspires you? People within my company are amazing, and they are the people who never think anything is impossible.


Priya Narasimhan

President and CEO
YinzCam

Priya Narasimhan had never been to a professional sporting event in America when she moved to Pittsburgh 10 years ago. She had just joined Carnegie Mellon University’s electrical and computer engineering department as an assistant professor. But she quickly developed a love for Penguins hockey. The only problem was her nosebleed seats in Mellon Arena kept her from enjoying every moment, and that desire to see more of the action developed into an idea.

Today, her YinzCam smartphone application allows fans at a game to replay video highlights taken from a variety of different camera angles on their connected devices, just seconds after a play has happened.

“The secret sauce is in how we do video streaming so it can be played on any smartphone, and how we scale so we can support that many devices on today’s Wi-Fi routers and broadband density,” Narasimhan said. “We obsess over doing that correctly.”

With a grant from Carnegie Mellon — which encourages its faculty to create spin-off companies — Narasimhan set to work creating a prototype in 2007. She approached the Penguins that year to try out the prototype at Mellon Arena, and in 2008-09 launched a trial run of the service within 1,200 seats.

According to Narasimhan, the number of regular users grew from seven to 800 in one season. The Penguins received such positive feedback that they built in permanent routers and servers for YinzCam into Consol Energy Center, which opened last year. News of the service spread, and Yinzcam now serves 13 NFL teams and three NHL teams, and Narasimhan employs a staff of 10 full-time employees. The application has been downloaded by 1.5 million people.

Narasimhan said she shrugged off funding offers from venture capital firms and prefers to grow the company from its current revenue. “If you don’t take a lot of money up front it keeps you hungry for sales, and that is how your revenue should come in,” she said. “We bootstrapped ourselves. We want to see how far we can go if we remain hungry and scrappy.”

— Fred Dreier

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