Comcast has a clear message for the Silicon Valley and its rich base of entrepreneurs, engineering talent and technology startups: We are here, and we want to work with you.
That was a key aim of an open house put on Dec. 10 at Comcast’s 70,000-square-foot Silicon Valley Innovation Center, which has grown from 60 employees when it launched in 2011 to one that now employs about 250 engineers.
In addition to christening the expansion, the event was also put on to signal to the area that the facility has “shifted our charter” from being a facility that focuses on creating new products to one that is likewise eager to strike up partnerships with third parties that can collaborate on the development of new products and services, Comcast Silicon Valley general manager Justin Miller said.
“It’s important to us to get out there and to start talking with other companies that have a lot to add to the ecosystem,” said Miller, who joined Comcast more than four years ago, initially to run Plaxo, the social contact service that the operator acquired in 2008. “A big part [of the event] was to showcase the work we’ve been doing and to get the word out that we are looking for more partners.”
At the event, Comcast showed some of the handiwork that has resulted from those collaborations, presenting demos with Altia Systems (a maker of video telepresence products), the California Telehealth Network, and Twitter, which has served as the launching pad for SEEiT, a platform that uses social media to promote shows and to enable Comcast subs to tune to a channel, set a DVR recording, or fire up a TV Everywhere app directly from a Twitter “card.”
Miller said Comcast Silicon Valley is currently focused on drumming up third party interest in the MSO’s IP-capable X1 platform, which currently supports apps from outsiders such as Pandora and Facebook.
By way of example, Comcast is in talks with Thuuz about bringing its sports app to the X1 platform, Miller said. Thuuz taps data from Twitter, Stats Inc. and other sources to determine the “excitement value” of live sporting events based on a 0-100 scale. Once integrated at the set-top level, customers could tune directly to a sporting event being touted by Thuuz.
Comcast also used the event to help it with its recruiting in a hyper-competitive region. “I’ve been in Silicon Valley for 20 years and it has always been a fight for top talent,” whether the market is booming or busting, Miller said.
Comcast isn’t the only cable-focused firm to plant its flag in the area. CableLabs, the MSO-backed R&D consortium, opened a 17,000 square-foot Innovation Office and Lab on Oct. 28.