Why the Top Minds in Silicon Valley are Heading to Tivo

Dan Phillips is kicking product innovation into high gear within an out-of-the-box company culture

Whether he’s in Poland, Ukraine, Romania, India, or at his home base in Silicon Valley, chances are Dan Phillips has his ears perked up, listening. As the chief operating officer of TiVo since 2006, Dan Phillips’s business is people—making sure his diverse groups and individuals know they’re being heard and understood.

More than 80 percent of TiVo’s employees report in some way to Phillips. He’s involved in the nitty-gritty details and the overarching plans. He listens to perspectives on what decisions to make from time lines to workforce priorities to the omnipresent question, “Where are we going as a company?”

Many remember when TiVo was introduced, as the concept of Digital Video Recording (DVR) immediately changed the way in which television had been viewed for decades. But Phillips spearheaded the company’s unprecedented shift in direction, a “very, very difficult” maneuver that he says the marketplace didn’t believe the company could achieve. “We were already a consumer electronics company, and we made a decision to expand our strategy, and support and distribute our products in the enterprise world as well,” Phillips says. “That’s a different business model.”

Now, twenty of the twenty-five largest domestic multiple-system operators and international operators such as Virgin Media and Vodafone use TiVo’s products across the globe. It’s a success that Phillips attributes to TiVo’s talented staff and the company’s culture of ensuring opinions are valued.

In the competitive business region of Silicon Valley, where the likes of Google, Facebook, and fast-moving startups get all the buzz, Phillips believes TiVo is holding its own in attracting and retaining top talent. “In the hottest job market, in the hottest place in the world for engineering talent—and talent in general—we’ve been able to keep the core talent here motivated, doing interesting and great things,” Phillips says. “At the end of the day, that’s a big piece of my job, and it’s probably the thing I’m most proud of.”

At TiVo, Phillips has his hands in several sectors of the company. He works to oversee engineering and operations, including engineering activity for service providers, consumer product distribution, advertising, and product management. This also includes distribution, manufacturing, call centers, IT, facilities, broadcast operations, and service operations. It’s a role that Phillips says requires a leader who appreciates not only the needs and voices of diverse groups, but a deeper understanding of what motivates them to make decisions and drive the company forward.

“There’s no one data point that ultimately drives your decisions. Things really become clear and aligned as you listen and hear from all different groups,” he says.

When Phillips was deciding whether or not to bring its latest product TiVo BOLT to market, he opened his ears and his doors to perspectives from across the company, a particularly important move as the product was given an incredibly short and unprecedented time line: start in February, release in September, and go to market in time for the Christmas season. He listened to reasons from both sides of the opinion aisle on the repercussions of going forth with it.

He heard from inspired engineers wanting to make the push, and he heard from budget- and time-conscious groups that thought it would be too risky. “That was a perfect example, where every opinion was heard, every perspective was understood, and then ultimately I had to make a decision and the team rallied behind it fantastically,” Phillips says. “We hit our date and we have a great product.”

Yet Phillips isn’t sitting in his senior executive ivory tower listening, either. He credits TiVo’s “flat” culture that allows innovative employees to break the barriers of a traditional hierarchical structure to bring new ideas to the table, face to face with Phillips and his peers. Phillips says he spends as much time with people on the front lines of the business as he does with interim CEO Naveen Chopra.

If his employees would describe him in any way, Phillips hopes it would be as a cheerleader, and approachable. “When we have a big delivery coming, or something special that we’re trying to bring to market, I’m sitting next to the engineers,” he says. “I might not still be able to code the way I could twenty years ago, but I can go out and get sushi for them while they work their butts off across a holiday weekend.”

At the end of April 2016, digital entertainment technology company   Rovi Corporation announced it was acquiring TiVo, but Phillips is optimistic about his company’s future—in large part because of the people and the culture the company has been building since its origin. He knows that TiVo is going to captivate consumers with the next big product that no one even knows they want or need yet. “Our team, we’re going to bring the next great product to the market, wherever and however we do that,” Phillips says. “That’s what I care about. That’s what motivates me.”