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Friday, Dec 1, 2023

Overseas Expansion, Yes, But Burbank is Nexus

Paulette Pantoja is the founder and chief executive of Blu Digital Group Inc.

After starting the company 16 years ago, Pantoja has led Blu’s evolution from providing qualitative feedback to studios to helping media companies gauge the performance of their digital streaming platforms. 

A Los Angeles-area native, Pantoja studied film and television at UCLA in the late 1990s before getting her feet wet with home entertainment technology while working at Ascent Media Corp. and Panasonic Corp.’s Hollywood Labs. It was this experience bringing media to consumer’s home screens that inspired a platform built specifically for media project managers to track content assets along the production pipeline to ensure the right cut makes it to the public’s landing page.

Her clients include the biggest players in media, from legacy studios like The Walt Disney Co. and Warner Bros. Discovery Inc. to the newer entrants pushing trends in video-on-demand, like Roku Inc. and Amazon MGM Studios.

While her company remains anchored in Burbank, Blu’s footprint extended greatly this year. In July the company announced a partnership with Atlantis Television to launch Blu Digital Group France, opening offices in Paris, London and Barcelona, Spain, to service post-production outlets in Europe. Blu is the No. 3 fastest-growing company in the San Fernando Valley with a revenue jump of $8 million from 2021 and 2022, according to the Business Journal’s list.

Why has your company grown so quickly? 

It’s with the evolution of technology. Especially with the film and television industry, it’s how people have been consuming content. Video content has changed, and a lot of that has to do with Covid-19, unfortunately, when people were at home and there was a higher demand for content. That required processing of that content and the services and solutions that a company like ours has been involved in for years. So, for just the last few years, the advancements in why we’ve grown is a combination of not only user consumer habits and demand, but also because of the innovative solutions and services that we have. We’re able to provide those much-needed services and solutions to the industry.

What are your particular challenges of fast growth? Recruiting enough skilled people? The drive to expand supply chains? Acquiring enough space for your expanding needs? Other things?

The challenges are humans. Maintaining company culture across all employees when you bring them on, maintaining that culture, especially as we’ve grown globally. We’ve opened up in different territories around the world and we obviously know that different territories (bring) different cultures. So trying to have that uniform type of culture and that communication open to collaboration, that’s always a welcome challenge, of course, and it’s very exciting, but it is a challenge. And I think the human component is a very important part of any successful business.

Growing companies often relocate out of California. Do you think that trend will continue? Are you tempted to do so?

We are at Hollywood, we’re at the center place, so I think Blu will always be headquartered here in Los Angeles, more specifically Burbank. We do have a Hollywood office as well, but I think what we’ll do is expand to have other offices around key areas that also develop content- or media-centric hubs. But our headquarters will always remain in Los Angeles. We’ll grow outside of California, of course, but the headquarters will remain here.

There’s been a longstanding prediction of a recession. Do you believe one is still coming? If so, what have you done to prepare for it? How do you project it will affect you?

It’s inevitable; history says that these things happen every so often. So, I do believe it will happen. And how we prepare ourselves for that is to ensure that we are remaining nimble and diversify our portfolio in terms of types of industries so that if something goes down, we still have something else.

If you could go back in time, knowing what you know now, what would you do differently at your company?

For me personally, the culture portion for my company. I think that resonated with me a lot when I went to business school. Not everything is about statistics and your P&L and your revenue and your bottom line. A lot of it has to do, obviously, with the people you have in your company. So I would have probably started a little bit earlier in building my executive and management team and looked for different types of traits, not necessarily what was on a resume.”

What’s the most important piece of advice you’d offer to another leader whose company is experiencing fast growth?

Always have a thick skin to realize that things don’t always go the way that you want them to and kind of roll with that. My favorite quote (I say often) is ‘play the cards you were dealt like it’s the hand that you wanted.’ I think it’s a mindset. It’s ok to be upset about something for a moment, but it can’t consume you. Look at the opportunities even when there’s failures and just adjust and pivot to find where that potential alternative is.

Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk
Hannah Madans Welk is a managing editor at the Los Angeles Business Journal and the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She previously covered real estate for the Los Angeles Business Journal. She has done work with publications including The Orange County Register, The Real Deal and doityourself.com.

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