Q&A Wednesday :: Affinegy

affinegyToday’s Q&A Wednesday is with Melissa Simpler, CEO of Affinegy.

Give us the elevator pitch for Affinegy. How long has the company been around?

Affinegy makes software that removes networking complexity for consumers who wish to lead a converged Digital Lifestyle, and enables service providers to maximize revenues and profitability in the Digital Home. Our solutions deliver the “it just works” consumer experience that enables mass market adoption of video, data and voice services delivered through IP networks, uniquely spanning existing, new retail and custom networking equipment. Market-leading service providers across North America and the UK, including Charter, Cox, Clearwire, Time Warner Cable, Virgin Media, are deploying Affinegy solutions as the foundation of their Digital Home services.

Affinegy was founded March 2003 and is headquartered in Austin, Texas.

Growing and profitable is not exactly normal in today’s economy. To what do you attribute your success?

First, we are benefiting from the pervasive use and increasing utility of the Internet. A June 2009 study from Pew Research Center found that consumers are twice as likely to have cut cell phone or cable TV service in place of cancelling their broadband, and further that consumers resort to reduced travel and eating out expenditures before cutting Internet service.

Second, our current customers – broadband service providers – are facing new competition from an inflection in the Internet being increasingly used to distribute and stream video content. Over the top competition from players like Hulu and Netflix is fierce and several other eco players like Boxee and Sezmi are providing content and service solutions that enable the consumer to cut the cord from cable and DSL.

Broadband service providers need to step up to deliver more than “the pipe”. They are realizing this and taking action. Their core asset – the IP data network – is what serves up the Internet. They own the branded content. They’re in position to assert their brand as “trusted advisor” of the consumer’s growing digital lifestyle, and are embracing this market opportunity with our solution.

It’s great to see a woman tech CEO. What is your take on how to encourage more women in tech, especially entrepreneurs?

Thank you. I frequently refer to myself as the “accidental entrepreneur” as I had my career sights set on executive management in the Fortune 500 ranks. I caught the broadband bug while on intrapreneurial assignment with Motorola. That business unit was wound down in the post 2001 bubble, and I had the opportunity to start something new on the outside. I took that opportunity and never looked back.

I believe early exposure to the fun and wonder of science and math is key to encouraging more people to enter engineering and technical fields. It’s not just women that are lacking. The percentage of U.S. citizens pursuing technical degrees has decreased and continues to shrink. Mad Science camps, magnet education at Austin’s Kealing and LBJ Science Academy, Take Your Child to Work Day, Girlstart, Austin Women in Technology, and traditional mentoring by women like me to members of the community is key.

Your husband is also an entrepreneur, and founder of tech company Simpler-Webb. That has to make for an interesting home life. How do you juggle that?

Interesting indeed. Two founder entrepreneurs, two boys, no nanny …but a lot of shared understanding and empathy. We also have family that we’re close to in and near Austin.

Simpler-Webb was founded 1993; Affinegy in 2003. I learned a lot from Jeff’s early business experiences, and we compare and share our experiences with each other as our careers and businesses evolve. It’s busy, but great! I don’t know life any other way.

What is the number one constraint to your growth in the rest of 2009 and beyond?

The classic challenge businesses face that are playing in explosive growth market segments: staying focused during periods of rapid growth; growing the team with “fit to culture” and “fit to skill” front and center; and picking the right projects given the inevitable constraint of having limited resources (that most of us face).

What does the future hold for Affinegy? What can we expect to see from the company in the coming months?

We’re aiming to establish Affinegy as the “digital glue” for the mass market digital lifestyle on a global scale. It’s not just about setting up and managing computers, routers, and printers. It’s about making it all plug-and-play – game consoles, smart phones, media centers, webcams, and more. And it’s about extending the Internet and digital communications experience beyond the boundary of the home while making that home and its content and devices available anytime, anywhere.

About Bryan Menell

Bryan is the Managing Editor for AustinStartup and the CEO of Mahana. He is a co-founder of Capital Factory, an investor and advisor, and runs the popular Austin Tech Happy Hour with his wife.