Blog Post

SonicMountain Buys FireAnt

SonicMountain, a company best-known for buying the assets of podcasting startup Odeo, has acquired video player startup FireAnt for a “mid six-figure” sum.

FireAnt had gained early acclaim for its Mac and Windows apps that helped users subscribe to, download, and play video podcasts. The company, founded by Josh Kinberg, Jay Dedman, Daniel Salber, and Eric Radmall in 2004, was a first-wave thought leader in the Internet video space, gaining some 400,000 downloads of its media player and paving the way for projects like Veoh and Miro. But internal turmoil caused the company to flounder — it failed to raise money, putting itself at risk of bankruptcy.

Update: Dedman says the company sold for $400,000.

While the buyout price isn’t much to speak of, it’s a welcome new chapter for the startup. FireAnt will be combined with Odeo and relaunched circa December under the Odeo name as an audio and video podcast player and community. Kinberg will run product development; the other founders had previously moved onto new projects.

FireAnt and Odeo have more than a little in common; their founders had actually met at the jet-setting TED Conference in 2005, where Dedman, Kinberg, and Odeo founder Ev Williams were invited to preview the new era of digital media. While that new era came to fruition, the two companies were left by the wayside. Interestingly, the SonicMountain deal actually came about as a result of the TED connection, with Williams (who is now involved in Odeo only in an advisory role, as he has moved on to Twitter and other projects) introducing Kinberg to SonicMountain.

SonicMountain is run by Rick Arturo, a podcasting hobbyist who made his money as an early employee at Sun Microsystems (JAVA) and then Cisco (CSCO), and is now seeking additional funding for the new Odeo property. SonicMountain had some business management difficulties of its own recently come to light, when a company by the name of the Amergence Group falsely announced it had finalized an agreement to acquire it. SonicMountain also has its fair share of naysayers, who invariably appear in the comments of any article written about it. Arturo said he attributes the ill will to an ousted CEO who left on bad terms.

SonicMountain is also looking to purchase, a blog and podcast index and search engine, for the Odeo project.

On a related note, we’ve been tracking down a report that another digital media player startup, Instant Media, may have shut its doors. It’s possible the site is just down for maintenance, but when the company contact email address bounces back — as it did to us this morning — that’s a bad sign.

33 Responses to “SonicMountain Buys FireAnt”

  1. Carolyn Pritchard

    Folks, although we normally take a very hands-off approach to our comments section, the exchange above has clearly gotten way off topic. To that end, although we aren’t deleting any of the comments on this post to date, we will no longer allow comments to be made on it.

    thanks, Carolyn Pritchard
    Managing Editor, GigaOM Network

  2. Pete Jones

    Yes, car accidents happen and they can be tragic events.

    First Lady, Laura Bush, ran a stop sign and killed a young man in a car accident when she was a teenager in 1963:

    Digging up unfortunate tragedies in a person’s past and holding it against them 30+ years later is kind of overboard.

    BTW, I’m pretty amazed that your “daughter” is intently paying attention to comments on a blog post that was published almost 4 months ago. Could you be Jack Roken, the famed cyberstalker ex-CEO?

  3. Dear Thunderbird7,

    I am completely appaled at your comment when my daughter showed me your posting. Having lost a child to a drunk driver, it brings tears to my eyes that you could forgive a man of murder. Yes I said MURDER! Zero tolerance is the only way to prevent such horrors.

    Taking a life is not simply ” a stupid mistake”! Did you read the link? He was convicted regardless of how this man plead. I pray he has learned his lesson hard and quit his alcoholic behavior. Thank You.

  4. Thunderbird7

    Looking at the link provided for Mr. Moore’s Felony charges, it was a manslaughter charge for DUI in 1975.

    I’m not saying this isn’t a serious offense, but even if Mr. Moore is in his 50’s currently, that would have put him in his early 20’s when this incident occurred. So probably a stupid mistake when he was in college is my guess.

    Anyway, it doesn’t say whether he was convicted or not, or how he plead, but this post certainly doesn’t indicate one way or another on his ability to run a business some 30 years later.

    Just my opinion of course.

  5. Fireant never got the $400,000, just stock that will never be worth a penny! They deserve what they get because they partnered with criminals! Why does no one seem able to admit that Dick Moore is a convicted time serving felon!
    Lying that he is a good guy does not change the truth of what the animal really is!

    Additionally, Fireant were not even sophisticated from a business perspective to hold on to their own domain.
    All the attornies on the planet could not help them then or now!

  6. Dear Rick Arturo, this is a comment section not a blog.
    But you should know that since you are a Podcast Hobbyist. (Rick name the last three podcasts you ever listened to?)

    How come you never formally announced Dick Moore as your CEO before the comment was posted here? Why was no background check made on his felony records? Did he reveal his criminal past as you state “he would know Dick is one of the most honest, straightforward individuals on the planet.” (And a time serving convicted felon?) I thought CEO’s with felonies/criminal records were never considered CEO material?

    Come on Arturo, just what are you guys up to? Let me guess. Amergence (pink sheets – no products or revenue?) is back in the picture and there you go with your delusional plans for Odeo / SonicMountain to be used as a stock scam.

    It is so shameful! Do something constructive for this community! And stay east please. You were the laughing stock of Ontario this year with your “hey buddy” fake attitude.

  7. After reading Mr. Sharp’s perspective on what happened with FireAnt, I can begin to see why everything fell apart the way it did.

    But if what he’s saying is accurate, that he put in hundreds of hours of effort into the video directory and was only offered a fraction of company stock for this, then it’s pretty clear that the founding visionaries (Kinberg and Dedman) were just as culpable in being greedy as anyone else! Even worse, because they obviously put their own interests ahead of key developers like Mr. Sharp, this in the end is what sets a company on a downward spiral with the greatest momentum.

    What Sharp says about development coming first before business offers another key insight into the failure of this organization. Development is either going all the time, or there is no company, there is no business. So by what he says here one can assume that the original developers must have stopped coding and folded their arms waiting for something to lift them out of their full-time jobs, including Mr. Sharp who obviously left for greener pastures.

    As for the video directory he helped build, from what I saw over the past year the site that housed this directory was rarely, if ever updated. This tells end-users one simple message, don’t come back to this site because you’re not going to find anything new here. One can only suspect that potential investors and corporate partners also got this same message loud and clear.

    Whatever the ultimate cause for the death of FireAnt, it honestly doesn’t excuse kinberg for turning his back on his core community and worse, to lie to us about software updates and upgrades that were never going to happen!

  8. I love a good start-up success story, but FireAnt isn’t one of these as far as I can tell. They never finished or delivered the beta software as promised, and all but turned their backs on their core users and community.

    So when I hear that the same CEO (Kinberg) who obviously ran FireAnt into the ground is going to oversee the combining of ODEO and FireAnt into one offering, I can only imagine the train wreck that’s about to happen there!

    FireAnt RIP!

  9. Doug Arrison

    Seems like there is a lot of garbage being proffered lately. I’m compelled to respond to jay dedman’s post above regarding “expanding the backstory”. He whines (in the friendly confines of his moderated blog) about the “bizness” guys…

    Well, suffice to say that immediately after Mr. Dedman’s June, 2006 departure from the company, three investors stepped up, the software was re-designed (to support private labeling and advertising) and relaunched (in the first proof-of-concept private label app) as “FeedYourZune”, Say what you will about the Zune – for our strategic purposes, the Zune software was lacking the exact functionality that we provided. The launch was timed to coincide with the launch of the new Zune player and met with considerable success (500,000 Google hits 1 week after launch and 10,000 downloads the first two weeks). This was an attempt to break free of FireAnt’s core, early adopter audience and associate the software with a device (making it a necessary tool for Zune users). This branding strategy was also easily replicated for other devices “FeedYourZen”, “FeedYourArchos”, “FeedYourTreo” etc. as the software was now designed for “plug and play” branding, advertising and feeds.

    This was the software that SonicMountain bought. It was a far cry from the original FireAnt. The interface was clean, the bugs were gone and we had a marketing strategy and revenue model that, for the first time, had some potential…

  10. Sometimes you just have to respond when you read pure garbage in the blogs… It’s obvious “Jonathan B” has never met, nor does he know Dick Moore. If he did, he would know Dick is one of the most honest, straightforward individuals on the planet.

    Dick was brought into SiVault as a consultant to clean up an existing mess and to assess their current technology. Eventually, the Board asked him to become CEO and try and make a go of it with the software they had. Long story short, there was not enough investment money available to take it to the next level and the company had to shut down — not terribly unusual in this day and age. Dick was not responsible for the loss and probably did more than most could have done to prevent more.

    Dick is an exceptional businessman and is a great asset for Odeo. We’re lucky to have him.

  11. Could “Jonathon B” be the aforementioned cyberstalker who enjoys posting mean-spirited comments? Looks like it.

    It’s really annoying when people use public forums for their own personal vendettas because you can say anything and link to anything with no repercussions.

    Best of luck to Sonic Mountain as they bring Odeo and FireAnt together and create a new company. Look forward to checking back in a few months to see what they’ve created…

  12. Thanks for the interesting post. I give a lot of credit to people who take the risk to start companies and then have to make decisions one way or another. Wish all of the start-ups could be Facebooks or Youtubes or Google, but it just doesn’t work that way. I’m always on the lookout for good insights into why companies do or don’t make it. It’s usually first about having a team that works well together and then having product vision that matches the team. Sounds like the new Odeo has both. Best of luck to them!

  13. Steve Elbows

    I went off Fireant back when they decided not to go opensource after all, and then became defensive whenever someone asked about a broken feature. Then information started to dry up, ending up with the usual sort of sad situation where it becomes safe to presume that updates of the mac version had ceased due to someone leaving, leaving only disappointment where once there was joy.

    So despite the undeniably vital and glorious contribution that fireant made to the beginnings of videoblogging and videopodcasting or whatever you want to call it, I have had no emotional attachment to their product for a long time.

    I must admit that Ive always been surprised that more video aggregator apps werent released, whilst they are not completely trivial to write, they arent the most tricky thing to program either. I wait with interest to see if Adobe Air will cause a new generation of cheap & easy to make video aggregators appear on the scene, especially since the h264 announcement. Though I havent actually studied whether the features of Air make it totally suited to video aggregators, probably the likes of FireAnt could still maintain an advantage in terms of number of different video formats supported, and sync’ing with devices, etc.

    I was slightly alarmed by the murky rumors I found when looking up SonicMountain, though much of that seemed connected to the Amergence buyout that apparently fell through, though there isnt exactly a mountain of detailed info on this available. Its all too unclear for me to digest accurately as it seems like lots of the discussion is on finance boards where the motivations of many posters are unclear. Lets see what ahppens, I hope that SonicMountain have the vision and resources to create a decent new chapter in the lives of FireAnt and Odeo.

  14. Yeah after Daniel Salber and Jay Dedman left the Fireant Team, it all went downhill. I used fireant for a solid 2.5 years but now am looking for other options. If This new version of Fireant for the Mac does all the things it should (keeps the standards of the old mac version with additions of things like playlists) then I might bite, but for now, I am looking into Miro…

  15. We know we have our work cut out for us but the plan is in place — video, mobile, search. FireAnt brings so much more to the table beyond their existing technology. Everyone knows it’s the people that make or break a company. Josh and crew will help strengthen Odeo significantly. Thanks to Evan for the hooking us up.

  16. Ah memories.

    It was an amazing time. being able to watch everyone else’s video back in 2005.

    Every… single… video… that everyone else made.

    Working with Daniel Salber on FireAnt for the Mac was a great experience. New features and bug fixes that I suggested were always implemented quickly.

    Being able to work that closely with a developer was lots of fun.

    Sadly the Macintosh development didn’t keep up with the PC development and I ended up dropping FireAnt and moving to Miro.

    During this period, my Mac crashed and I ended up starting over and subscribing to fewer feeds.

    What’s happening now is that I only subscribe to about 13 RSS 2.0 feeds with media enclosures. Others I subscribe to, but go watch online.

    I find many new videos via Twitter, Email, IM and Facebook.

    Another thing I frequently talked to Jay about was getting the ability to be able to see what others using Fireant were subscribed to, and beyond that, see what videos they liked or recommended.

    That feature would have been cool.

    Good luck with Odeo Josh. I’m interested in seeing what happens.


  17. The Instant Media website has been down for at least a week (if not a lot longer) without notice or any information of maintenance.

    I’m pretty certain it is dead – it certainly hasn’t had much traffic for some months and would be operating at a loss with no sign of improving.

  18. It’s great to see to early market leaders like FireAnt and Odeo bring their technology together to build something even better. Looking forward to future announcements and seeing what good things are ahead for the new Odeo.

    Start-ups are never easy and sometimes trying something different or something new is the best way to find out what works well.

    Best wishes!