Until recently, a phone was just a phone. But since everyone’s favourite conversation piece went mobile, there’s been no stopping what it can do. These days, phones have gone way beyond mere chatter, bringing us photographs, messages, games – and now music videos and newscasts. Could Alexander Graham Bell have forecasted this?
Maybe not, but Raja Khanna (BSc 1993 UTM) could have. As chief creative officer of QuickPlay Media, the self-described “digital media pioneer” provides video downloading and streaming to the Canadian mobile phone market. In three years, the company he co-founded has won two national awards, grown from two to 80 employees and steered phones straight into the heady world of the Internet. Not everyone has phone video now, but Khanna thinks the change will happen fast. “The bottom line,” he says, “is that if you’ve got this powerful device in your pocket at all times that’s always connected, always reliable and simple to use, of course you’re going to use it for media consumption.”
But this 34-year-old tech exec doesn’t just frame how content is presented – as a guitarist and composer for the band Dirty Penny, he also creates it himself. Khanna’s simultaneous embrace of art and science came early, when he enrolled in genetics and philosophy at Erindale College (now University of Toronto Mississauga). He went on to obtain a law degree, but demand for one of his side talents – designing websites – led to his current career. “In our family, we had computers before most other people did, since my dad was in the industry,” he says.
Thus was born his first company, Snap Media, which ran into hard times during the dot-com crash several years ago. (“I had to fire many of my friends in order to pull through,” says Khanna ruefully.) But he rebounded, dove into the world of telecommunications – and, with offices in England and the United States, is now taking on the world.
“That excites me, because I think we can help create a hub here in Canada for digital media,” says the affable Khanna, who’s surprisingly calm considering all that’s happened to him in the last year (including fatherhood).“We have all the right people here, all the right skills, to make this a centre of excellence.” A sentiment with which Graham Bell – the sometime Canadian – would no doubt agree.