Every time a new Blackmagic product comes out, Grant Petty learns to hate it. The process is essential, says Petty, to ensure constant reinvention. “Only by hating it can you truly understand the limitations of it and dream about things above and beyond what exists.
Blackmagic manufacture video cards and converters for the film industry at a fraction of what these previously cost, revolutionising the stereotype that equipment was too expensive for amateur filmmakers. The best part is that his products are also at the leading edge of audiovisual technology. Petty’s entrepreneurial philosophy centres on creativity and innovation, both for his own company and the industry it services.
“I realised the TV industry built big complex systems that were very expensive and they took a long time to train people up on them. A lot of the people were technicians, not creative people,” he says. “I wanted to make usability possible in television and I wanted to kill off the expense.”
Petty developed a capture card that he first sold to Singapore in 2000, then the USAustralia was an afterthought because Petty thought the film industry was too small here. “I didn’t even like the Australian television industry, I thought it was old-fashioned,” he says. and then worldwide. A “worldwide attack” was necessary to sell the volume of product needed to justify upkeep of their state-of-the-art manufacturing plant and to keep prices low. Export turnover now comprises 98 percent of their revenue, an estimated $50 million.
The secret to Blackmagic’s success stems from a very lean manufacturing structure that allows them to focus on improving products. Petty set up a tracking system for ordering—from customers ordering product to the plant ordering components for manufacture. “We have pretty detailed information systems that we’ve written ourselves to cut back on bureaucracy,” he explains. “The only people who are left are creative people who actually think about things.”
Not only does this condense creativity time so the product moves quickly from head to hand, it also means prices stay low. The result is a company that out-innovates the Americans and out-manufactures the Chinese.
Another way Blackmagic courts the market is to introduce new products at the same price as old models to secure high adoption rates, which gives them an edge over their competition. If Petty can learn to hate the old models as they’re launched, all the better to make the innovation process turn over more quickly.
“You don’t get awards for a me-too product, you get them for moving the technology forward. The fact that we keep winning awards means that we keep pushing it forward,” he says. “We constantly think about how we can reinvent what we’re doing right down to every little detail in the company—it stops it from getting boring. I want to go faster.”