Kara Swisher

Recent Posts by Kara Swisher

Joost a Little Misunderstanding Between Friends? Actually a Knee-Capping–but Please Enjoy the Video From Better Days!


Revenge is a dish best served cold–except, of course, when one decides to serve it piping hot.

And that’s just what part of one of the losing sides of the $2 billion deal to buy Skype from eBay (EBAY) is doing in an unusual attack on Michelangelo Volpi, a well-known tech exec in Silicon Valley.

You see, until recently, Volpi was CEO of Joost, arriving at the much-hyped online video start-up to great fanfare in mid-2007.

But the London-based Joost never quite caught fire and began layoffs and contraction this summer.

As part of that development, Volpi then went to Index Ventures, a venture firm also based in London.

And, in one of Volpi’s first deals, Index was one of the smaller players on the winning side of the deal to buy Skype, putting up $75 million.

But also vying for the prize were the Internet telephony service’s founders, Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, who had hooked up with a group of private equity investors.

To complicate things further, the innovative and entrepreneurial pair also own a company called Joltid, which has licensed key technology for Skype to eBay.

It gets better! Joltid and eBay have been fighting in court over that agreement, bickering back and forth about whether eBay violated the terms of that deal or not.

Finally, in the past few days, in what is obviously a related move, Joost said that it had dumped Volpi as a director and as chairman, a job he had retained when he left for Index in July.

Said the company in a statement:

“Mr. Volpi was removed from the board of directors and from his position as chairman of Joost by shareholder vote. The company and its board of directors is conducting an investigation into Mr. Volpi’s actions during his tenure as CEO and as chairman.”

Volpi had no comment.

BoomTown does: It looks like a lame attempt at kneecapping him to me, as part of a larger rumble!

But, for many, this comes as a surprise, since it had been thought that Volpi–a former dealmaker with Cisco (CSCO)–would play the role of a peacemaker in the eBay-Joltid fighting.

Actually, according to numerous sources, Volpi had also struggled with Zennström and Friis when he ran Joost, and there is no love lost among them.

In fact, here’s a glimpse of that tension in a video interview BoomTown did with Volpi a year ago in London, when I visited its office there.

It took place just after Joost was forced to rejigger itself to gain momentum (which never happened).

“Restarting a start-up is definitely not easy,” said Volpi in the interview.

As it turned out, that was the least of his worries.

Here’s the video:

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