IntroductionThis month’s TPU interview is with Alex Mei of OCZ Technology. Alex joined OCZ over four years ago as the Vice President of Marketing and has recently been promoted to Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer. Not only is he now in charge of marketing OCZ products to consumers and system builders, but he also manages customer service, strategic partnerships with other companies and has to interface with all the other departments including sales and operations. Clearly Alex is a busy man, so I thank him for answering questions for this article.
Personal BackgroundAlex says that he has always had an interest in computers and gaming. He grew up in California only a few miles from Silicon Valley, and comes from a family that spent time in the computer industry. A self-described tech geek, his interests led him to the University of Cal Poly San Luis Obispo where he studied Management Information Systems. But when he was close to completing his course work he had a change of heart and instead stayed to complete a degree in Marketing Management.
First jobs in the IndustryShortly after graduation, Alex sold computer services until he was hired by First International Computer to work in their Public Relations department. Over time, he moved up to become their Global Marketing Manager where he first came across OCZ. “We worked together on a combination of cross promotional activities and motherboard/memory bundles,” Alex remembers. “I became interested in OCZ because of the company’s focus on high performance and quality, as well as the organization’s target market of high end gamers and enthusiasts.” This business relationship eventually led him to OCZ where his main role today is marketing their products and keeping up with an ever expanding industry.
OCZ TechnologyOCZ Technology is a rapidly growing company based in Silicon Valley, California. Entering the industry in 2000, it became known mostly for its enthusiast grade high speed memory. Over the years, they expanded into power supplies and flash memory and went public two years ago on the London Stock Exchange. Alex recalls, “Going public helped provide fuel for growth as well as the ability to make acquisitions of quality companies like PC Power & Cooling to increase our total offering as well as to further provide enthusiasts and gaming solutions to our customers worldwide.”
Most recently OCZ has been developing a line of “do-it yourself” notebooks. Alex says the goal is to provide consumers with the opportunity to build a notebook to their exact specifications. “Consumers want to be able to upgrade their notebooks over time, prolonging the use to the base product. With more modular solutions like MXM graphics it will be possible in the future for consumers to change their GPUs or even start with one and add a second for SLI or CrossFire later down the road.” OCZ wants to make the process both easy and fun by providing instructional videos, build guides, and component lists. They also plan on releasing their own 17" fully featured "desktop replacement" gaming notebook very shortly.
The desire to create something new and exciting for gamers and enthusiasts led to another interesting project. OCZ’s Neural Impulse Actuator or NIA was conceived and developed by Ryan Peterson, the company’s CEO, Dr. Michael Schuette who is their Vice President of Technology and a company called Brainfingers Technology. The peripheral works by recognizing electric signals generated by activity in the brain which are read by sensors wrapped around your forehead. While the NIA is not designed to replace a traditional keyboard or mouse, Alex says its purpose is to further immerse consumers into the gaming experience. “When I think [about] biotechnology like the NIA it is all about becoming more immersed in the game. This hardware can be used to improve reaction times in games or provide a unique experience in 3D environments.” The response has been positive with their first shipment completely selling out and users taking an active role online by experimenting and adding their own gaming profiles.
As OCZ expands its worldwide presence their focus will be on further innovating existing product categories and entering new ones when they can add value. “Growth for us has been a natural progression fueled by product development and demand for our solutions worldwide.” And don’t think that in the process they will lose touch with their customers. “One aspect of my job that I enjoy the most is interfacing with both the technical press like yourselves and actual consumers on industry news and review sites." Alex continues, “Having a direct line of communication with customers helps us refine our product offering to match what real enthusiast customers are asking for.”