Skyrider Shuffles Its Deck

Skyrider, a commercial peer-to-peer startup, has taken a bridge round of financing and undergone an executive shakeup. CEO Ed Kozel has given up his role to co-founder Ori Cohen, and COO Katie Mitic (formerly VP of marketing) has left the company.

Mountain View-based Skyrider has raised about $5 million in a bridge round with the participation of all its existing investors: Sequoia Capital, Charles River Ventures and Velocity Interactive Group (formerly ComVentures). Our interest was piqued when VentureBeat recently reported this round, but didn’t offer a thorough explanation as to what had happened with the company.

Kozel, who’s also a Yahoo board member, is said by multiple sources to have stepped back from the CEO role for personal reasons. He remains chairman of the Skyrider board. Mitic, who at some point last year was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Kleiner Perkins, is said to be taking on a CEO role at another startup. Skyrider now lists Anthony Bartolo, formerly of Symbol Technologies and Nortel, as COO.

Skyrider has had trouble matching a market with its technology — a recurring trend with P2P, from BitTorrent to the recently shuttered AllPeers. It first tried anti-piracy, then moved to ad-supported peer-to-peer, but to date has been unable to secure a major market presence.

We spoke with Cohen last week, who maintained that everything is fine. “We think the value of the company is about to increase significantly,” he said. Skyrider has a P2P-facing product on the market, he said, but nothing matching it on the web, so it has little visibility. A web version is due in June or July, Cohen said. We assume this would be something along the lines of legal content sampling and distribution like IMEEM, but he would not specify.

Our digging also turned up speculation that both a media company and a telecom company had looked seriously into buying Skyrider, but Cohen said he is not entertaining acquisition offers. Without a big product, the company would be hard-pressed to get a favorable valuation. Skyrider, which we first profiled in August 2006, had previously raised $20 million over three rounds. Cohen said the company has 33 employees, including a research and development team in Israel, and a significant amount of intellectual property.