A former Cisco executive has joined Joost, the internet video start-up, as chief executive. Mike Volpi was previously senior vice president of the routing and service provider technology group within Cisco, which recently acquired cable television technology company Scientific Atlanta. It raises the question whether Joost should be seen as a technology platform or a media property.
Once seen as a possible successor to John Chambers, the head of Cisco, Mike Volpi has been closely involved in the acquisition and integration of over 70 companies since he joined in 1994.
“Mike brings unparalleled leadership and technology expertise that will enable us to accelerate the growth of the company,” said founding chief executive, Fredrick de Wahl, who remains as chief strategy officer.
Mike Volpi described Joost as “one of the most exciting companies in the media industry,” and said it has “the potential to change the way video is enjoyed around the world.” He said that Joost brings together long-form programming, advertising and a secure delivery platform and “no one has it packaged together like Joost”.
Joost recently secured $45 million in venture funding. Although still in testing mode, it reportedly now has over half a million user accounts.
Janus Friis, who co-founded Joost with Niklas Zennstrom, said Mike is “the dream choice for this role”. He was previously a board member of Skype, the internet telephony company they started. “Mike’s leadership abilities in combination with his vision and technological expertise are unsurpassed and will serve as a powerful driving force in the realization of the company’s vision.”
By his own admission, Mike Volpi is not a media man, although he clearly has considerable corporate management experience. Although Joost has made an impression on the media industry, it currently remains an engineering led company. The majority of its 100 or so employees are engineers.
Joost has attracted attention partly because of the track record of its team. While technically impressive, the user experience remains significantly short of “broadcast quality” as described by Joost, whatever that may mean these days.
Many have been more critical of its programming proposition. Despite high profile deals with CBS and Viacom, with both becoming shareholders, its programming line-up is currently eclectic, to say the least, and outside the United States it remains rather limited in its pre-launch phase.
Joost clearly has considerable potential, but it still has a long way to go to achieve its vision. It needs people with a passion for programming and an understanding of the media world if it is to deliver its promise.