Is Joost Juiced?

“Sorry Craig, we ran out of inventory. Why not try us again in August.”

That’s what I was told by the Joost sales executive last year when I was seeking out new opportunities for my clients while at PHD. We had met with the Joost team a few times, and I genuinely enjoyed the time we spent together – their product was different, though at no point at the time had we ever seen a live demonstration of their product. In fact, they had trouble securing beta accounts for my team.

When Brian from Joost informed me of the news – that we missed the boat on the very first sponsorship opportunities of the Joost platform, I had to admit – I wasn’t too upset.

My clients on the other hand weren’t too enthused with the news. I think the reaction was something along the lines of, “First Second Life…and now Joost?!” The “innovation” in my title was slowly fading, I could feel it…

And who could blame them? This could’ve been the social event of the century. Yep, for a time, Joost was the only thing talked about in our respective offices, even eclipsing the Second Life hype. Joost was like the Miley Cirus of video platforms. Everyone wanted an invitation to their beta and talked up how the Joost platform could revolutionize not just the online but offline world of video.

Hey I wasn’t really complaining much. Their hype coincided with a presentation I gave on narrowcasting.

As the news trickled in that their beta program was filling up faster than a Dodge Durango during a $2.25 gas sale, there was a brief twinge of regret. Had we made the right choice? Taking a deep breath, I braced myself for hearing about how we missed the boat, missed first movers advantage, etc.

Pardon my shock when I received a note a month ago from Brian Danzis informing me of his decision to move on. Brian is a great sales executive – someone I respect in the industry. It’s never easy trying to sell something new into agencies and Brian did a great job – first at Massive, then making the jump to Joost. Given that the initial beta sponsorships sold out quickly, his departure took me by surprise. I mean this is a company that received $45 Million in VC, they should be well incubated. Right?

I would argue that the two things you don’t want to lose in company leadership are technology and sales. Technology, so you can continue to evolve and advance your product. Sales so you can continue to bring in the revenue to fund your advancements and appease your investors. The two are symbiotic and I’ve been on the end of both of those spectrum where one goes awry leaving the other to fend for itself, typically not for very long.

No sooner did I receive news that Brian left, it was announced that the CTO of Joost parted ways. First it was reported his departure was amicable, and then he was fired.

So what happened?

Ultimately the platform failed to convince consumers to download it. In fact in diving into the controversy surrounding Joost, I was glad to see that Mathew Ingram shared the same sentiments in his post on the subject.

Joost had some interesting features. The ability to embed widgets, the in-program chat functionality, were fine and good but ultimately nothing they created was imperative to have.

Back to my clients while at PHD – like Second Life, I did not dismiss Joost as vaporware. What I suggested was that we as an agency, wait to see where uniques level out. Wait out the first wave of hype and let the audience stabilize.

Unfortunately things don’t look too bright for Joost. Per Mathew, he noted this commenter on the NewTeeVee post linked above — who claims to be an insider at Joost — claiming that things are not going well: “The mood is very bad inside the company, money is running out fast, the cash burn is of course way way too high, and so there is a lot of nervousness. Honestly, I think they are dead.”

Joost is still adding content, such as the Star-Trek catalog. But is it too little too late? For a company that seemed to be in the press every day at the beginning of 2007, they’ve been awfully quiet in 2008…almost too quiet.

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