Kara Swisher

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Danny Rimer Comes Back To Valley–Both of Them

It will be nice to see Danny Rimer back in Silicon Valley this week.

rimer

Now London-based, the former SV investment bank analyst and venture capitalist is here for a lunch hosted today by Index Ventures, the juice behind Joost and also a previous little start-up you might recall called Skype.

index

“From Index Ventures perspective, the world is much smaller and flatter now,” said the invite to the event, which will feature the entire technology investment team of the venture firm, which operates out of both London, Jersey and Geneva.

“Five years ago,” the invite continued, “it felt Herculean to have a small, globally focused business and, today, it is commonplace.”

That, in fact, is the one thing that has struck the 36-year-old Rimer as the difference from when he left California in 2002. He worked here first at Hambrecht & Quist covering then-nascent Web companies (and where I first met him) and then as a fledgling VC at the short-lived Barksdale Group, whose fortunes were buffeted by the first dot-com bust.

“If anything has changed, it is that the Web is really now completely a global phenomenon, which is hard to sometimes see while you are in the middle of Silicon Valley,” said Rimer. “I think I have the best job taking the Silicon Valley model and applying it in totally underpenetrated geographies.”

Rimer thinks that every digital company has to be building on global opportunities now. “You need to be aware what is happening in Bangalore, Estonia, Tel Aviv,” he said.

That’s what brought him back to Europe and to a firm that was started by his brother and another VC in 1996, and which also includes yet another Rimer brother. The various Index funds now have about $1.5 billion under management.

That’s a good size to be flexible, said Rimer, while also allowing it to make big bets and, in tech, often in open-source companies.

It has paid off well in the case of Index’s investment in Skype, the Internet phone company that was sold to eBay in the fall of 2005 for $2.6 billion in cash and stock. It also recently scored when its Last.fm social-music network was sold to CBS for $280 million in cash.

Other Index investments include MySQL, the open-source database, and open-source business-intelligence company Pentaho.

And today, Index announced that it was leading a $5 million financing of London’s Openads, the developer of a free, open-source ad-serving system, a competitor to companies like DoubleClick. While Openads was started as part of Britain’s digital-ad business Unanimis, it will now stand alone.

But Index’s most recent notable bet has been its lead role in handing over $45 million to Joost, along with Silicon Valley’s famed Sequoia Capital (backers of Yahoo, YouTube and, of course, Google), as well as CBS, Viacom and the wealthy Hong Kong investor Li Ka-shing.

The much-hyped video online service was created by Skype’s Janus Friis and Niklas Zennström, who are also Index advisers and investors. In further insider baseball, Joost’s new CEO, Mike Volpi, spearheaded a Cisco investment in Index when he was there as the networking company’s top mergers-and-acquisitions exec. Volpi has been on Index’s advisory board, too.

Joost aims to do for professionally created content from media companies big and small what YouTube did for user-generated video. I like this on-demand idea, but I am a bit cool on Joost so far, finding its beta claustrophobic, noisy and underwhelming. Also, I seldom go back in the way I do to other video sites.

Rimer, of course, disagrees. “We are essentially creating a new kind of network, although there is a lot of work to be done to make it a compelling and diverse experience,” he said. “It will be interesting to see its adoption and use over time.”

Indeed, although you will not see Joost making any of its own content–relying instead on Hollywood connections. Joost is, in fact, throwing a party in Los Angeles next week to show the flag to that town’s players.

After becoming terrified by the huge growth of YouTube, with its nest of copyright issues, Joost could be seen as a Hollywood executive’s salvation.

“Making great content is a whole different set of skills than we have and we appreciate that,” said Rimer, who now has to become as comfortable in the Valley of Burbank as he has been in Silicon Valley. “But we will definitely be doing a lot of hugging down there.”


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