2017-06-01 / Spotlight

Hometown Pioneer

Todd Erdley | President & CEO | Videon

Todd Erdley has lived in State College his whole life. It’s where he met his wife, Julia, who also went to State High. “I heard her sing at a band camp and I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I just have to go on a date with this girl,’” he says. It’s where he started Videon, the audio-visual software development and hardware design firm that brought Silicon Valley to Happy Valley in 1997. It’s where he started his own family, which continues to grow — his son Alan and daughter-in-law Katie have two children, the newest one born just last month.

It’s because he loves State College that he continues to ask it for more. “This is a great community with tons of opportunity,” he says. “That’s really the thing though, how does a person who is roughly 30 years old come back to this town and just find unending opportunity for themselves, their spouse, their kids and still have that restaurant vibe, that shopping vibe... How do we make sure that we have all these pieces in place? Because if we don’t do this right, right now, this town may change forever to the bad. I really think that we’re at a tipping point. You have this new generation of entrepreneurs — some are young, some are older, but we’re all idealistic and we believe that we can change the world. And we can actually do that here in State College.” We caught up with Erdley to see what five things, besides his family, keep this visionary entrepreneur pushing forward.

“I love cycling. I’ve been doing it pretty seriously about 15 years now. I bike in the evenings and I’ll bike during the day and on weekends. Last year, I did just a little bit over 7,000 miles. The bike, for me, is solitude. When you put your brain into a very discomfited position, when you’re going up Pine Grove Mountain as hard as you possibly can and your heart rate is super far up and you’re hypoxic, everything just starts to clear and the whole day goes away and all of a sudden clarity of thinking and calmness and serenity and Zen comes in. Then going down the hill you’re going 52 miles an hour on those little teeny tires and you’re just one little chipmunk away from death. And darn it, it’s good. It’s really good.”

“The thing I love about gardening is that for me, the gardening is a connection with nature. The way to see things in a different light is to put my hands in the dirt and garden. To be able to plant a seed, grow vegetables and then cook with those vegetables and have it all come from this backyard.” Plus, Erdley started a garden at Videon that grows vegetables to be donated to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank.

“At Videon, to me our org chart is a circle. Everybody has a point on the circle, and nobody’s better or worse than anybody else. So if you’re going to have equal importance, different responsibility, how do you amplify that in a physical way? The Link building is where everybody comes together and it doesn’t matter who you are or what your background is. It’s where we have our kitchen, it’s where we have our company meetings, it’s where we have total connection where it doesn’t matter who you are and it’s all about just the person there. To me, it’s the central point of Videon. It’s how and why. Care about others more than you care about yourself. Ultimately you get surrounded by lots of people who care about you, because they think the same.”

The Col du Tourmalet is one of the hardest hills that you can climb in France. It’s long, it’s steep, it hurts. It’s wonderful. Probably the greatest moment I’ve ever had in my life, other than the birth of my son and getting married to my wife, was on the Tourmalet. My son and I were over there biking, and it’s cloudy and misty and foggy and we’re going pretty good, and as we start to get towards the top, all of a sudden the fog starts to lift a little bit. We’re going up further and now we’re inspired because the sun’s starting to come out, so we’re moving faster and faster — we’re ripping it. And as we get towards the top, we’re just hammering, he looks over at me, and he said, ‘Dad, is this the best day of our life ever?’ I said, ‘Absolutely.’ He said, ‘You know what’s going to make it an even better day?’ He said, ‘When it’s you and I riding with your grandson up this hill.’ When he got married he gave me cuff links that say ‘Col du Tourmalet,’ and now I have an almost-2-year-old grandson and another brand-new one.”

Erdley played clarinet in the Penn State Blue Band while working towards his degree in electrical engineering. “You can ask my wife, I cry — the tears just stream down — every single time I hear the alma mater. I can’t even get through the first verse. When I was in Blue Band I never played during pregame, I was out there just crying. It’s so important [in our family].”

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