Former Cadence Design founder Joe Costello has taken over as CEO of place-shifting software startup Orb Networks, adding that title to the chairman role he had previously held. Costello, who helped found the Emeryville-based Orb three years ago, is apparently taking a stronger hand to help the company gain acceptance of its software, which allows users to view content from their PC — photos, audio and video — on any device with a Web browser.
According to a recent BusinessWeek story, Costello has been acting CEO since this fall, but only officially named so by the company today in an email press release. UPDATE: We talked to Costello on the phone Tuesday, and he said the company is seeking $30 million in a new round of venture funding, and has several partnership announcements that should be announced “in the near future.” More after the jump:
According to Costello, his rise to the CEO spot at Orb has been in the works for more than a year, but it had wait until he was no longer the top executive at think3, a CAD software company. Jim Behrens, the previous CEO at Orb, was part of an original Costello-led incubator team that hatched the Orb idea; according to Costello, Behrens wanted to defer the top spot at Orb because he felt Costello was better equipped to handle “the huge opportunity” in front of the company. Here’s more from our phone interview with Costello:
NewTeeVee: Is Orb successful right now? What are your immediate goals?
Joe Costello: We’re moderately successful. We’re not YouTube! But we have about 500,000 users of the software, and the average use time is an hour a day.
NTV: Does the 500,000 number represent active users?
Costello: It’s very close to 500,000. We’ve had 600,000 people use the software more than once. But the opportunity is to take that 500,000 and multiply it by 10. There is an inflection point about to happen in this space.
NTV: What’s the next step to get there?
Costello: Right now we are trying to raise a really large round of financing — 20 to 30 million — and we have a ton of initiatives for Q1. The big challenge is all about getting more users, so we have to do viral things, partner things. We have to get people to try the software.
NTV: How do people find Orb now?
Costello: It’s a bit of the random walk for us. Mainly now people find Orb through PR, blogs and hearing from a friend. But we need to find some grooves that are better.
NTV: Does that involve building your own hardware? Or what other types of platforms could Orb software be installed on?
Costello: Well now that the Wii has an Opera browser, you could put Orb on a Wii, and get [data] to the TV screen. Our role is to solve the classic 10-foot interface problem — to gather up all your media, and make it available on your TV set. And you should be able to do that for under $50 [for a set-top box or other appliance].
NTV: That’s a lot less than Apple is talking about with iTV.
Costello: And if they do it, it will be nice and elegant but it’s not going to be open. You’ve got to be non-proprietary and cheap. And it should operate both ways, see my PC stuff on the TV and vice versa.
NTV: Are there any announcements soon?
Costello: You should hear more in the next few weeks. Maybe by CES, if we can get one done.
NTV: Right now most people think about video as something on their TV, which they may want to watch on the computer, via things like the Slingbox. When will content start to move in the other direction — from the PC to the TV?
Costello: Until you can get digital media to every screen, it’s not going to flower. But if you can — all of a sudden you have 10,000 channels that can flower, and you suddenly don’t have the blockade of the cable provider or service provider. This is the year we are going to see some of that happen. There are people like Current TV, who have great stuff and people, who just haven’t crossed over yet. This new technology opens the world to them.