Cynthia Traeger on Investing in Technology


Pacific CEO Cynthia Traeger talks with Steve Waskul on a wide range of topics during this interview from the Waskul.TV live broadcast from SIGGRAPH 2014 in Vancouver, BC. Pacific is a technology holding company that has over 25 years of experience in bringing advanced, emerging and innovative technologies to market. They own and operate organizations in a variety of industries.

The interview begins with Cynthia talking about her experiences at SIGGRAPH (which go back to 1984 when she was working in the computer graphics industry) and providing a brief overview of Pacific. Cynthia says she’s a technologist at heart and although she is an executive technology is definitely a passion. She explains that Pacific is a very data-centric organization that started in 1989 building real-time 3D sound systems for location-based entertainment, visual and military simulation, research, medical etc. Over the next 25 years that has grown and today they have a wide range of offerings that include analyzing network-centric data caches and other related projects that span a wide array of industries.

Typically the companies we’ve encountered work at helping users to visualize their data. In this case Cynthia explains how Pacific works on data sonification. In simple terms, they work with audio to convey information to perceptualize data. Cynthia explains how in the world around us there is a significant amount of auditory information and that we use this information every day to make decisions. For example if we are driving and we hear the sound of a car breaking loudly we might instinctively brace for impact. In the interview she provides some interesting examples of how Pacifc is working to bring the unique characteristics of sound and how humans perceive it to either 2D or 3D spaces to create solutions for their customers. So, rather than having to rely only on watching a screen for example, people can also listen for auditory cues to help them analyze information.

As the interview moves forward, Steve and Cynthia talk about venture capital and investing. Pacific first and foremost looks at the team in place. Do they have the ability and wherewithal to see an idea through? Do they seem like they have the strength to persevere when times are good and when times are bad? Do they have the foresight to be able to create a road map and say here’s where we’ll be able to go? And, they also look at founders to see if they have the ability to pick others for their team who they will be able to work with and succeed with. Of course they also look at the technology and assess whether it is viable. Is there a market for it? Is there a consumer or customer base for it? If all signs are positive, Pacific looks to invest in enabling assets that will have a synergetic effect with their current holdings so that the relationship will help move both teams forward.

Next, Cynthia talks about some of the interesting technologies she’s seen at SIGGRAPH and she talks about her interest in working with the SIGGRAPH volunteers to help renew interest in SIGGRAPH as a conference and a viable organization that drives their industry over the coming years. One area for this might be in getting more direct opportunities for emerging growth companies to showcase their technologies and concepts.
Moving on Cynthia talks about a panel she participated in on sights, sounds and sensors at the conference. A significant topic in this part of the interview is parallax visualization which has a lot of compelling benefits.

An interesting part of the interview was Ms. Traeger’s description of her work outside of being CEO at Pacific with the Founder Institute which is the world’s largest entrepreneur training and startup launch program. Basically they help aspiring founders around the world build enduring technology companies. In their four-month, part-time program people can “learn by doing” and launch a company through structured training courses, practical business-building assignments and expert feedback. Cynthia directs the institute which is run in Washington, D.C. so she spends a lot of time talking to entrepreneurs. In the past 4 years they have put together more than 4,500 CEO mentors that help with the program which has a presence in 40 countries around the world. The program is admittedly very selective and not easy to get into but it seems like a great opportunity for those who do. In 14 weeks you get to the point where you have a legally incorporated business and are ready to talk with investors. And, along the way you’ve met a lot of like-minded folks working to move their ideas forward so that is also a benefit not to mention the interaction with seasoned CEOs who are contributing their talents in the mentoring process. We look forward to getting feedback from folks who have taken the program.