Samba TV’s Austin Engineers Create Interactive Television

Samba TV Office in Austin on South Congress

By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

Samba TV, a San Francisco-based company which provides real-time television data and analytics, opened an office in Austin two years ago.

Omar Zennadi, co-founder of Samba TV and director of engineering, heads up the local office with ten employees. It’s primarily engineering focused, he said.

Zennadi is a 2003 graduate of the University of Texas at Austin in electrical engineering. After graduation, he moved to San Francisco and started working at BitTorrent, a peer to peer file sharing company that lets people download large files quickly and easily. Zennadi and the other founders of Samba TV are ex-BitTorrent employees.

“Deep in my heart I always wanted to get back to Austin,” Zennadi said. “I saw this burgeoning startup scene starting to grow. It really fostered that desire. As we were looking at emerging tech talent pools, Austin was one that I would always bring up.”

Founded in 2008, formerly as Flingo, Samba TV develops software for televisions, set-top boxes, smart phones and tablets to enable interactive television and data tracking. Its technology is installed directly into the TV or set-top box to track onscreen content. Its applications are available on more than 30 million screens in 118 countries.

“When it comes down to it we’re a data company, but we have consumer products as well,” Zennadi said. “We build cool interactions with television. We build an environment where applications can be aware of the content you’re watching.”

Samba TV provides TV viewership data across millions of TVs, Zennadi said. The company disrupted the industry which previously involved consumer surveys via snail mail.

Samba TV is backed by $8 million in venture capital with investors including Mark Cuban. Co-Founder Ashwin Navin is the CEO and a former co-founder of BitTorrent. Other co-founders include David Harrison, Alvir Navin and Todd Johnson. Samba TV also has an office in Los Angeles and an engineering office in Warsaw, Poland, a team in Taipei, Taiwan and an office in Lake Tahoe. Altogether, the company has 150 employees and it allows them to do office rotation programs to work out of any of the other locations for a month at a time, Zennadi said.

Other perks include $5,000 educational grants, Tahoe Friday ski weekends, free lunch Wednesdays, gaming room with a HTC Vive Virtual Reality set and more.
Samba TV also gives every employee the ability to early exercise their equity in the startup. The company is profitable and has experienced 600 percent year over year growth, according to a news release.

Austin has been a great fit for Samba TV, Zennadi said. Samba TV continues to hire, primarily engineers, he said.

“We tend to be very choosy in picking our engineers,” he said. “We look for the best and brightest. There are some great engineers here in Austin. We’re working on a lot of cool problems for an engineer. The TV domain is fun. It’s not another enterprise software. There is a lot of data. A lot of big data problems. We’re working with a large number of TVs and advertisers.”

Samba TV has a lot of data. That allows engineers to solve problems at scale by processing that data, Zennadi said.

“We’re doing a lot of cool and innovative stuff,” he said. “It’s made recruiting a breeze.”

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