Mike Volpi, the former chief executive officer of online video site Joost who stepped down in July, has now been removed as chairman by the company’s shareholders, and is under investigation for his activities during his leadership.
Many are questioning Volpi’s dual roles at Joost and Index Ventures — a thorny subject involving eBay’s sale of Skype. He joined the private equity firm in June when Joost officially threw in the towel on becoming a web television portal, facing too much pressure from Hulu and television network web sites. After that, Joost downgraded to supply “white label” video technology to businesses. At the time, Index had invested in both Joost and Skype, companies that share the same founders, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom.
Ironically, Friis and Zeenstrom are being sued by Skype, their original creation now wholly owned by eBay, for intellectual property infringements perpetrated by Joost. To fight back, they are arguing that Skype has breached the licensing agreement they still own for the peer-to-peer technology that powers its web phone service.
The situation got even more complicated last month when eBay agreed to sell off 65 percent of Skype to three private equity firms: Andreessen Horowitz, Silver Lake Partners and Index Ventures. Volpi, along with Index managing partner Danny Rimer was overseeing the sale, and it’s possible his removal will stall proceedings.
Volpi has now served on the boards of both Joost and Skype, even when he was still chief strategy officer at Cisco — where he was apparently the heir apparent for chief executive John Chambers. He’s fallen a long way since then. Joost seemed like a promising move when he first joined, but it failed to find an audience in a market dominated by brands like YouTube.