RALEIGH — On Monday, the beautiful State Club at North Carolina State University was transformed into a networking powerhouse, where NextGen engineers, investors and creators met with entrepreneurs and professionals of all ages and careers who would be using the new, cutting-edge technology.
“I think it’s fascinating,” said Shelly Leslie, general manager of Audience Development at Capitol Broadcasting Company. “I’m really excited about the customization possibilities — if you are in Apex and I am in Raleigh and there’s a tornado, you’re going to get a particular set of information, and I will get a different set of information. In terms of serving the public, which is our goal, it’s endless. It’s a mash of all the ways we communicate.”
Sam Matheny, executive vice president at the National Association of Broadcasters, who jokingly called himself “the biggest nerd in the room,” joined the conversation. “I’m excited about NextGen because I think it could be a transformation of the broadcast television industry,” said Matheny. “It has the ability to combine the best of broadcast and the best of broadband to provide new sorts of user experiences that I think are going to be critical to future business opportunities but also better engage with the community.”
Matheny, Leslie and dozens of other CBC leaders and business executives who support NextGen were excitedly waiting for the group mingling downstairs to tour and experience the technology that could change lives.
Michael English, a member of the Triangle Startup Social networking group downstairs, said his group is diverse, with members representing everyone from college students to seasoned entrepreneurs.
Meant for professionals, career changers and students at all levels, the group is focused on entrepreneurs and investors, with start-up mentors and advisers available to help budding or returning business people.
“We’ve been doing these networking events the past 4 or 5 years, and adding a different element to [the events] gives these entrepreneurs and investors the opportunity to participate in some new technology on top of the networking,” said English. “Doing this was a no brainer.”
Small groups from the Startup Social began making their way upstairs for their NextGen tours. “It is my duty to all of my clients and investors to know exactly what’s going on so we can get ahead of the market,” said Gene Barlaz, an investor in leading and cutting edge technology.
“It sounds like what they’re showing here tonight fits in that category.”
“I work for a product design and graphic design firm, so we’re always just looking to understand technologies and what users are experiencing,” agreed another potential NextGen user waiting for the tour.
“We’re excited to see what’s in there.”
Upstairs, Stephen Clossick, a community member who had just finished previewing the NextGen technology, told me that the experience left him reflecting on television’s not-so-distant past.
“I remember WRAL years ago at the NC State Fair was showing off the newest TV technology, which was HD, at their booth,” said Clossick. “I was amazed at the picture. So when I heard about this event, I thought, ‘I saw it back then, so I need to see what the new version is now. That was probably 15 years ago.'”
Pete Sockett, Director of Engineering and Operations at CBC, was busy all night giving Startup members tours of the NextGen features.
“Say you want more information about what you’re watching on TV — like the medal count for the Olympics or details on a particular news story — in this interface, we are sending the links to all these over the air signal. The links link you to trusted servers, not the wide open internet. When you click on weather or Olympics, you’re going to one of our servers. We’re giving you the whole experience without having to leave our channel. It’s safe and it’s trusting.”
Robert Rice, a start-up founder, was at the event to connect with people to join his start-up as well as to look for investors.
“I’m very interested in this technology, because most of what I do is related to virtual and augmented reality.”
Next to him, Keith Mellendorf, an electrical engineering student, was one of the youngest people in the room. “I’m a freshman here at NC State, and I’m interested because this sounds like some pretty cool technology,” he said.
“I don’t mind commercials,” said Cristal Vivano, who was enjoying a drink upstairs with another Startup Social Member.
Vivano, who works as a marketing professional and enjoys watching TV while doing laundry and cooking, was excited about what she saw in NextGen. “I really care that there is a good picture and that it doesn’t cut off every five minutes,” she said. “It’s great picture quality too.”
The Triangle Startup Social meets monthly.
Keep monitoring WRAL TechWire for the latest news on NextGen.