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 Blogdigger.com, 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.