MySpace Looks to Clarify Identity with Help of New Hires

If there is any one question essential to a corporate turn-around it’s: “who are we?”  If a company’s management can’t answer that, there’s no place to go. A company without a clear identity, a place with only a muddled mission or an abstract sense of direction, is a company with no chance to get back on course.

At MySpace, where things are in dire need of refreshment, new chief Owen Van Natta is asking exactly that question, and he’s bringing in more new staff to help sort it out.

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Google Reaches for the Sky, and Your Desktop: Chrome OS

chrome osGoogle’s been accused of many things but having slight ambitions isn’t one of them.  From the company’s stated mission, to its search efforts, from book search to Android, the company always aims high.  Google’s latest plans stick with the formula.

Following an increasingly popular trend of pre-announcing potentially big news, the company announced today on the Google blog that their Chrome web browser will have a new cousin in 2010: Chrome the Operating System.

Unabashedly sighting in on Microsoft and its next generation Windows incarnation, Google says people want to get their email in an instant, they want computers to run as fast when they’re a year old as when they were first bought.  They want more for less.  More accessibility, more speed and less maintenance.  Google thinks it can deliver that.  Click to Read More

Stats Survey: Nielsen Takes New Look at Game Sector

Monthly NPD sales data paints one picture of how the video game industry is faring in this economy.  Tracking firm Nielsen has crafted an alternate perspective.  In a new study, Nielsen turned the lens on the recession’s impact by  measuring how much time is being spent playing and how many used games gamers are buying.  Not surprisingly, the survey found both game engagement and used game purchasing have been trending up.

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Venture Capital’s New Recruits: Volpi and Andreessen Join the VC Ranks

The printers are probably still warm from running off copies of last week’s announcement he was stepping down as the CEO of Joost, but former Cisco star Mike Volpi is wasting no time updating his resume.  Not a week removed and he’s already on to his next venture, literally.

Index Ventures (which is an investor in Joost) announced Monday that Mike will join their London office as a venture partner. 

While a new entrant to the VC world, Volpi is anything but inexperienced when it comes to evaluating companies.  The former Cisco Chief Strategy Officer oversaw a business development team that acquired more than 75 companies during his thirteen year stint at the networking equipment maker.

At Index, Volpi will focus on familiar territory: Telecom and Networking startups.  He’ll also try his hand at picking future stars from the Media and Internet sectors.

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Joost Revises Its Business Model

If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.  But if “Plan B” doesn’t work either? Then what? Do you call it a cautionary tale? Chalk it up to the nature of the game? Or do you try a new course yet again?  For the once high flying internet video startup, Joost, which has been spiraling toward trouble, it’s door number three.

On Tuesday, the company announced in a corporate blog that it will restructure its business model to incorporate a white-label service aimed at providing video distribution technology. (The video site will remain but no longer be the company’s singular focus).

Joost cited the economy as a key factor in its decision.  On the company blog, CEO Mike Volpi wrote that it had become “increasingly challenging to operate as an independent, ad-supported online video platform…. We have built a solid technology platform that there is demand for in the marketplace, and look forward to this new chapter for our company. At the same time, we’ll continue to operate and its associated video applications.”

While the challenges of earning a living off advertising had to figure into the calculus to shift focus, Joost’s problems run deeper and have been apparent for a long time. Simply put: the company’s service never matched up to the demands and behaviors of the consumer marketplace.  Timing, programming, and concept never fully came together.

Cycle back the calendar to May 2007 and Joost was a hot, hyped peer to peer video platform still in an invitation only beta.  The founders were coming off of huge success in the creation and sale of Skype. Click to Read More

Crowd Sourced Knowledge: Netflix Prize Won?

netflix prize awardLog in to Netflix and rate a movie you watched on a scale of one to five and Netflix’ computers will try to suggest other titles you’re likely to rank the same way.  This algorithmic pairing process has been marketed as a key differentiator between Netflix movie rental service and that of competitors.  It’s been touted as an achievement. 

For two and a half years, Netflix challenged the public to try and create a better mousetrap.   A million dollar prize was dangled as bait for the first person (or team) to create a program capable of beating Netflix’ Cinematch algorithm by a margin of ten percent or better.   Nobody succeeded.  Developers inched close but couldn’t quite hit the mark. Seven percent, eight percent, nine…but not ten.  The so called "Netflix Prize" went unclaimed. Until now, that is.

On Friday, a group created from a combination of four independent teams that had been vying for the prize submitted a solution that they claim resulted in a 10.05% improvement over Netflix’ Cinematch ranking algorithm.

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THQ Reorganizes Units, Looks to Future

thq repair metueIn the hit or miss world of video games, the last fiscal year was an unequivocal miss for Agoura Hills based THQ.  The company came up $431.1m short on a GAAP basis (or lost $101.8m in Non-GAAP terms) when it reported its full year results in May (release).  It was a “challenging” year as CEO Brian Farrell called it, to say the least.

The current fiscal year may be shaping up to be a little more positive.   In November 2008, the company announced a multifaceted plan to refocus on a narrower slate of premium titles and reorganize its business structure to allow more efficient operations.  24% of the company’s workforce (600 jobs) was cut in the following months and approximately $220m in expenses were pared off.   The company also added a new credit facility in May to provide a safety net for any working capital issues.

Today, in what likely completes one of the final steps left in the business realignment, THQ announced it will reorganize its development units into a new structure. Click to Read More

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