Q&A: Rashid Skaf on buying Biamp

Q&A: Rashid Skaf on buying Biamp
InAVate spoke to Rashid Skaf, the ex-head of AMX after the news broke that his company Highlander Partners had bought Biamp. Skaf has been installed as Biamp's president, CEO and co-chairman, and among the details he revealed to Paul Milligan was that he wants Biamp to offer 'end-to-end solutions'.

Skaf also revealed he intends to improve Biamp's marketing message, and to speed up its process and 'whatever our customers are interested in, we are interested in'.

We began by asking Skaf;

What attracted you to Biamp? 

"It’s been a 10-year love affair that has finally come to fruition.  It’s a company that has an amazing group of people that have built excellent products that customers have wanted to participate with for the longest time.

When you have a platform like that and a strong brand people want to be associated with, either as a supplier or employee or integrator/consultant/end user, that is the winning formula as far as I’m concerned.

The culture - a family atmosphere - was one that attracted me, and holding people accountable for their results and still treating people with respect. 

I love everything about the company.

Does this deal make sense for both parties? For Biamp to be able to grow and for you because of your past AV history?

You didn’t hear about Biamp being for sale because it wasn’t technically for sale.  We approached them because of my love for Biamp, our approach was that we’d love to take this company to the next level, and we want you to come along with us.  So it wasn’t sold much as they sold Biamp, more that we bought Biamp. 

Do you think you are a good person to take Biamp to the ‘next level’? Just how big is the potential there?

The company I joined, Highlander, is an amazing company, but they would not have invested in Biamp if I was not there, under any circumstances. This is the tenth company I have bought.  In that process, being able to grow companies, both organically and through acquisitions, is what I specialise in, growth is my main focus.  We see Biamp being a much larger organisation as we move into the future, because we are going to grow it organically through product extensions and vertical extensions and geographic extensions. 

Any ideas in what Biamp will invest the cash it now has? Bigger R&D maybe?

We will invest in R&D but also invest in the distribution model we have and in our marketing.   I think we have been a little underinvested in the way we deliver our message out in the field, so being able to do that to a broader audience is definitely of interest.  When I joined AMX our international revenue was less that 20% of our revenue, when I left it was 50%.  The same thing applies here, how do we take the great stories, messaging and people and deliver the gospel according to Biamp to the world.

Biamp has been an R&D engine pumping out products, now we will have the flexibility we may not have had in the past to think of things outside of our comfort zone. 

How do we move beyond our main area of network media distribution, into ancillary pieces that combine with those to deliver a complete solution.  What is the outcome we are trying to achieve for our customers, and how do we own that outcome?   

That doesn’t mean we are going to preclude other people from delivering whatever it is that finishes off that solution, but we need to offer, like I did at AMX, complete end-to-end solutions, for whatever markets we want to play in.


You were at AMX when you bought SVSi so you obviously saw the direction the proAV world is headed towards, is this deal an extension of that same thought process?

If I was to take anything away from my previous nine acquisitions it is that I truly regret I bought SVSi when I did, as I would have bought them now. It’s a good company, which manages audio and video over the network, and that’s what Biamp is doing now is a different way with AVB, but the same principal applies.  It’s delivering content over a network.

Given your long history at AMX, could we see some AMX people move over to Biamp in the future?

I would love that if we have openings at Biamp that we need to fill. Some of those guys at AMX were with me for 20+ years, so there’s certainly the possible of that.  I love those guys over there, I now need to make sure Biamp is the right platform for the right people. 


Biamp has moved into video distribution with TesiraLux, how do you feel this product measures up against others in the market?

AV distribution over the network is key, that’s clear. The beauty of Biamp is that when we put out new products they are very well tested.  I feel good about the first iteration of Lux.  As we continue to evolve, my desire is to be less religious about protocols and they way we do things.  Whatever our customers are interested in, we are interested in, whether it’s AVB or something else.  If is solves the problem that is what we are going to deliver.    

I bought the company because I love it, it’s not my intention to change the culture.  We are going to speed things up a little bit, the treadmill will go up a few notches, but other than that I really love the culture that has been built here.