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Update: Joost Fires CTO

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Joost CTO Dirk-Willem van Gulik was fired by the Internet TV software company. He has taken another job as chief technical architect of the BBC Future Media and Technology Group, which is responsible for a similar project, the peer-to-peer video software iPlayer. We published this story a few minutes ago under the assumption van Gulik had left the company of his own accord, but a Joost spokesperson called to say “he was terminated.”

In a release, the BBC said van Gulik would be “responsible for the design and construction of the BBC’s next generation back-end infrastructure to support all interactive services including, BBCi and BBC Mobile.”

Joost today announced it’s named Matt Zelesko as senior vice president of engineering. Zelesko is building an engineering hub for the company in New York City, where much of Joost is now based. He has been with the company since October in preparation for van Gulik’s departure. Previously Zelesko worked on the (just-released) Fancast for Comcast; he also worked with Joost CEO Mike Volpi at Cisco.

A Joost spokesperson (this is prior to telling us that he was fired) said van Gulik, who is based in Holland, will remain a consultant to and an investor in Joost. We have not confirmed that van Gulik will work directly on the iPlayer, which the BBC said had over 1 million users in the last month.

33 Responses to “Update: Joost Fires CTO”

  1. whoelse

    Dirk is a moron who couldn’t even run his own office.
    Joost is dead. All they wanted from the start was to sell the company, like the prevous deals (kazaa, skype).
    Why do you think that the software never leaves Beta?
    Is it so hard to understand?
    Bye Bye Dirk..Don’t forget to manage whatever you’re suppose to manage this time… Shit doesn’t happen on it’s own you know..

  2. I’ve had dealings with van Gulik in the past, and I’ve got to say I’m surprised it took them this long to fire him, the guy is an arrogant, condescending jerk. In a 20 year career, I don’t think I’ve ever met someone I enjoyed working with less.

    For example, in conversation he would pretty-much concoct terms and acronyms on the fly, and then act like you are a moron for not knowing what they mean. On later research you discover that Google has never heard these terms either.

    He is the type of guy that non-technical people find convincing, and even if you are reasonably technical, it can take a while before you realize he is full of crap, but eventually you will.

    I feel sorry for those at the BBC who must work with him now, but I have one tip – next time he casually throws out a term or acronym, Google it before you just assume that he is smarter than you.

    (Yes, I’m posting anonymously because I’m a coward and its a small industry, but these words are true).

  3. I was/am a Joost beta user. I watched a bit of it in 2007. But in between nature shows, skateboarding content, weird sports programming and other nonsense, I gave up. It looked great, but it wasn’t my favorite content and it was a bit of a hassle to view, really.

    I wish ’em well, but there are way too many quicker, cheaper, easier alternatives out there right now.

  4. So, who much cash is left in Joost’s bank account?
    The answer is, it won’t last for the year. No way!

    Here is just a guestimate:

    (a) Started with $45m of financing on May of 07.
    (b) Estimate $15-$20m just on salaries since then (*)
    (c) Infrastructure in Leiden etc, count another few $m.
    (d) Not to forget their content costs.

    All that probably amounts to around or even less than $20m in the bank. Given their cash burn this is quite alarmning, especialls since they have nothing to show, no user adopton, little or no revenue traction, and management turmoil.

    In my view, the BIGGEST mistake was by the VCs who let all this happen. (a) to (d) is a recipe for disaster, don’t they know? Index, Sequoia, etc. they all are too blame. Bringing a corporate guy in in such a situation (“chief spending officer” may be a more appropriate title perhaps) may just have put the last nail on this coffin.

    (*) Last spring the headcount was reported at about 100, which then increased to some 130-140 in the fall. Estimate $10-$20k per employee per month, for seven to eight months.

  5. Matt Hendry

    Well its not hard to find out who the unnamed Joost PR person is if you follow Joost at all ;) but Im disappointed that Joost had to air their dirty laundry here about Dirk going to the BBC.

    You can really tell a company is starting down the tube when they don’t release any new features for 3 months or more like Joost has .

    The client has remained the same the bugs are still there and the content announcements have really slowed down .

    Warning bells rang rang for me when Mike Volpi told Kara Swisher that Joost didn’t need to be on the TV and they where headed for a web based strategy that never came to pass .

    Heres hoping Mike runs a tight ship gets those new features and content deals out the door before he runs out of money

    If your reading Joost staff please listen to your users and don’t make the mistakes others in the space have done in the past (Wurld Media/Peer Impact) ……read your forums, answer your emails, make your developers more acessable and act on what we ask instead of telling us we are wrong and you know better ;)

  6. Janko Roettgers

    Just a quick comment for all the people questioning the unnamed spokesperson: This is actually a fairly common practice. Most PR folks don’t want to be named in the news because they’re not the face of the company, but just the folks working the press.

    Sometimes a “company spokesperson” also works for a PR company that has a multiple clients – and you don’t want to be associated by name with one client of you’re working for another one as well.

  7. Hm.. this whole thing seems shady.

    I’m sorry but if this is an official Joost spokes person he/she needs to be named.

    You can’t really defame someone and then hide behind the company anonymously and still be their spokes person.

    Also….. I think this is more of a loss for Joost rather than the other way around.

  8. When I blogged about Joost’s CTO departure late last night, I suspected he was fired and so my hunch was confirmed. I’d think that Volpi is preparing to clean house and realign efforts.

    As for “Mike” — Whether he’s an insider or not, I still wouldn’t discount the potential of Joost.

  9. Hey, this is from a true Joost insider (who wishes not to be named, just to be in line with the spirit of this post :-)

    Yes, Joost is indeed having trouble. The main problem is that there is only very limited adoption among the user community. Far fewer people connect to the system than was originally hoped. Of course, this is mainly due to quality the content (or rather, lack thereof). It turns out that a lot of people download it once, then find out that there is nothing really good on there, then just never reconnect again. Or only sporadically, just to be reassured that there still is nothing interesting.

    Joost now learns the hard way that one CANNOT mix good with bad quality content. If it takes a user hours and hours to sift through a myriad of unwanted junk videos (frankly, that is what is up there right now), just to find ONE video that moderately interests you, then the viewing experience is not much better than going on a file sharing program to dig it out. The main problem with Joost is that there is practically no good content on the system right now, and even if one day there is good content, it will be overwhelmed by all the other junk.

    I think there is no remedy, the mood is very bad inside the company, money is running out fast, the cash burn is of course way way too high, and so there is a lot of nervousness.

    Honestly, I think they are dead.

  10. Joe Davola

    Well either they are a spokesperson or they are not. If they are a spokesperson then they can be named.

    I’m not disputing the story as such – just the way it is being presented.

    It’s strange that BBC, a respectable organization, would make a press release before word gets out from Joost of this dismissal.

    Either way Joost looks bad. Their CTO has left or been fired. Unnamed sources inside the company are obviously trying to spin it. No one is watching their service and they don’t have any compelling content.

  11. Joe Davola

    Does this Joost spokesperson have a name? Sounds shifty to me.

    Also, if the replacement has been in preparation since October, why is this all of a sudden a “termination”?