Akimbo my First Silicon Valley Start Up Throws in the Towel

Akimbo was the Silicon Valley Start up I moved to the Bay Area for.  It only took about 2 weeks to figure out they were not going to make me rich.  But I held on longer and worked hard to try and make that not happen.  The problem was simple.  They were driven too hard to be early, and they didn’t speak Hollywood.

It is easy to find things to pick at a company that didn’t succeed, but I won’t fault any of the product managers, CEO’s, CFO’s in this case I’m going to fault the Board.  As a VC it is important that you recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your execs, and no one seemed to recognize that Akimbo’s weakness was a lack of an Office in LA, and some one with some Juice to get Hollywood talking about, and pursuing Akimbo.

Akimbo passed the opportunity to be a sponsor for Night of 100 Stars, and other inexpensive Star filled events that would have got them on the radar of content producers, content providers, and Hollywood movers and shakers.

Being that a Hurst was a board member you’d think that their would have been a deep understanding of the importance of creating media buzz, and getting the right people to create that buzz would be a 5 minute phone call from the media giant.

I am glad for my Akimbo experience.  I hadn’t really had an appreciation for how much of a story you had to get right to be successful.  I had assumed if you could get 80% of the execution right you’d succeed, but it seemed that with Akimbo they had made many of the decisions as I would, but still never managed to succeed because of one “soft” component, that relationship with content.

Since Akimbo I have interviewed with nearly 30 Set top box companies in the Valley.  I worked in Microsoft’s STB group, MediaRoom, and have recently joined another IPTV Startup.  ZillionTV.tv which I will talk about later as more of its plans become public.

Om you and I aggree most the time, but you are wrong. Set Top Box dreams are not dead.  Silicon Valley Just doesn’t know how to speak Content.

Look at PS3, vs. Xbox, Blu-ray Vs. HD-DVD, these are all battles over who has what people want.  Akimbo had floated a business plan to be “THE” STB for foreign language content.  This would have been a great move.  Akimbo tried to be a Niche Content provider, the problem was the depth of any Niche was 40 hours.  Once you had watched the equivalent of 2 seasons of 24 you had nothing else to watch.

The Recipe for Success in a VOD only STB requires that you can meet the Viewing numbers of your user.  Start with the DVD/Netflix Model.  If you watch 2 movies a weeks, or 4 hours a week, and like about 10% of the content in a genre, then you need 40 hours a week of new content in that genre.

A house hold may be interested in 3-4 genre’s so you may be able to get this to 20 hours per genre, but you need to have depth in pillars of content.

Akimbo would tend to put 100 hours from one content provider up one week and then nothing for months.  Xbox Live Video Market Place seemingly does the same thing.  The problem is if I consume 10 hours the first week the content goes live and only like 20% of the content, I’ve got 2 weeks of content and then nothing for weeks.  At which point I have forgotten about the service.

200 Channels and still nothing on, is a BIG problem for STB companies.  If you don’t have the ability to put up 20k hours of content a week, then you should look at what niches you can fill.  The number of people that want 10 hours a week of self-help is less than the number of people who want 10 hours a week of Action Films, but you have fewer competitors in the Self Help Space, and you can likely get 100 new hours of content each week.

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