Is VON Creator PulverMedia Dot Gone?

138 Comments

Pulver Media, the New York-based company well known for VON, the trade shows for the VoIP industry and a magazine with the same name might be shutting down, joining the dot.gone club, according to sources.

The rumors of the shutdown of Pulver Media first started to show up on some VoIP blogs like that of our good pal, Andy Abramson. I am still waiting to hear back from Jeff Pulver, the founder of Pulver Media. Meanwhile, I spent some time trying to nail down specifics of what exactly went down and have been able to find some details.

According to my sources, earlier this month when the Pulver Media executives were in San Jose, Calif. For the Spring VON, their investors, TICC Capital Group pulled the rug from under Pulver Media, and shut down the company. They also seized control of the bank accounts. As a result many folks saw their checks bounced.

TICC Capital Group, a Greenwich, CT-based investment group that trades publicly on the NASDAQ stock exchange had invested $11 million in Pulver Media in June 2007. The investment was senior secured notes with warrants, i.e. debt.

In a filing with the SEC earlier this month, TICC said

During the first quarter of 2008, Pulvermedia indicated that it was projecting a sudden and dramatic decline in projected revenues and earnings for the coming year … Based upon the review of the company’s financial projections and operating cashflow forecasts, we determined that the debt investment warranted a complete write-down, $10.3 million, and the warrants were written-off as well, in the amount of $300,000. The investment was assigned a credit rating of Grade 5, and was placed on non-accrual status as of December 31, 2007.”

It seems Jeff and his team are trying hard to save the company and might pull a last minute miracle. This is a very sad development for the VoIP industry. Not only this puts one of the big VoIP trade shows at risk, it also is a setback for Pulver, an industry icon and a constant tinker. Stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Disclosure: Our columnist Daniel Berninger is a long time business associate of Jeff Pulver.

138 Comments

Lisa Barton

We sponsored VON Amsterdam. After the San Jose show we became concerned about audience numbers and sent emails to Pulver Media. These were not returned. So we sent emails seeking a form of refund. This was 2 weeks ago and we’ve had no reply.

I was told that both VON.X Amsterdam and the Video on the Net (NYC) has been canceled. Certainly if you now try to register for either you can’t.

We are both very unhappy and concerned. Pulver Media makes public comments that all is normal but fails to tell people events are canceled let alone refund attendees or sponsors!

I hope something gets sorted out.

DavidW

I registerd (and paid $2,500) for VON.X Europe in Amsterdam during early June and have just had an email from the company managing hotels for the event saying that my room has been cancelled as VON.X is not going ahead now.

This is the first that I’ve heard of it – no other communication.

Can anyone confirm and if so, will I get a refund or has pulvermedia gone bust?

Thanks.

anonymous

When will someone schedule an intervention for Carl Ford?

I know he needs the money, but I really wish he’d break away from the party line once and for all.

C’mon Carl, we know you’ve been looking for a new job for a while. And we hope you find one soon.

anonymous

Paying for offices in Melville, New York, Norwood, MA and Beverly, MA.? Well, that explains a bit about their burn rate.

I wonder why TICC and pulvermedia’s board of directors didn’t “correct” that before the money ran out. Especially considering they kept the offices open even after they inflicted pay cuts at the beginning of 2008.

anonymous

Jeff looks real upset about what is going on in this pic – smoke another one….
http://pulverblog.pulver.com/archives/008125.html

Wouldn’t a guy who is trying to save his company really be out there trying to save his company and not spending time playing on trampolines and in sand boxes – what a joke is right. Chundofsky, Kargman, Ford, and Erb are probably standing in line or below him with a safety net.

I think someone needs to grow up.

anonymous

THE SIMPLE ANSWER TO THE LAST COMMENT IS:

TEHRANI DIDN’T HAVE JEFF PULVER GOING AROUND BEEN SPENDING ALL HIS PROFITS ON:
JEFF PULVER’s OWN LAVISH LIFESTYLE OF WORLDWIDE TRAVEL AND BREAKFASTS AND PARTIES, ZEPPELIN CONCERTS (even though that is cool and worth it), A TRAVELING BAND, OVER PRICED ROCK HEAD BULLY C-LEVEL MANAGEMENT, THREE OFFICES WITH FIVE PEOPLE IN EACH, AND THE LIST CAN GO OWN FOREVER…..

HEY-LET’s FACE IT – IF ALL OF US COULD FIND A WAY TO GET INVESTORS TO PURCHASE YOU OR LEND YOU 45 MILLION TO SPEND ON THE ABOVE IN FIVE YEARS AND THEN WRITE THE INVESTMENTS OFF WE WOULD PROBABLY DO IT. WHAT A COUNTRY…

I’M SURE JEFF AND THE C-LEVELS SQUIRRELED AWAY A FEW MILLION FOR THEM AND THEIR FAMILIES… THEY’RE NOT STRUGGLING LIKE THE EMPLOYEES THAT THEY PUT ON THE STREET – UNLESS YOU’RE BASED IN MELVILLE OF COURSE – RUMOR HAS IT THAT THAT OFFICE IS STILL OPERATING AND HAVING PIPEDREAMS OF KEEPING THE COMPANY GOING (WAKE UP AND GET CONFIDENT ENOUGH TO GET A NEW JOB…MOVE ON)…IT’S TOO LATE (NO FORMAL COMPANY ANNOUNCEMENTS OR SHOW MUST GO ON ANNOUNCEMENTS IS A COMPLETE MIS-MANAGEMENT JOKE)

anonymous

What Carl doesn’t talk about is the fact VoiceCon seems to have captured the market that VON wanted to be.

His fault? Not really.

But for Chundonfsky to blame “the economy” for Pulvermedia’s problems when even people like Tehrani can manage to keep his doors open .. and even hire some of the guys who got stiffed by pulvermedia, like Bob Emmerson. That says something.

How can Rich Tehrani turn out to be a better business/cashflow manager than Chundofsky and company?

Anonymoud

Carl, the trooper until the bitter end, even though he has a 10 foot long shaft from the leadership (Not including Jeff) ….

Carl Ford

Jeanne,

Interesting comments. I disagree with many of them. I have heard the customer complaint before. I think its often used when sales does not work well. I have heard some brillant pitches and some pretty bad ones.
And I have missed the boat on some trends.

Since VON started we have had the boom of the 1996 CLEC strategy, the need for arbitrage practically erased, the consolidation of the telco industry worldwide. Its hard to point to new customers when so many are converging. We had that on the floor as well, with in some cases 3 companies becoming one in a matter of a year.

VON Gave birth to some companies, advanced some protocols and made some VCs happy. VON is the place where Cisco’s VoIP strategy got formed and the End of Life for Circuit Switch became clear.

imho Its given a better insight into the horizon then most shows and Jeff has a knack for trend spotting.

With the cost of voice still heading toward 0, the people who came to VON to sell based on previous models were in trouble, as were people who embraced the 0 and did not have a business model.

Today the story about what is filling the pipes is segmented like the colors of the WDM. By the way the best discussion of this was at VON Europe two years ago.

Jeanne

I am sorry, but this show was going downhill before Jeff ever left. For a time this show was the biggest event, however it failed in one huge regard. It never brought potential customers. Yes, every industry personality was there, but never any customers. They never brought in attendees from the enterprise space and forget about trying to build your channel program there. It was a great place to find partners and chat about the future. However partners and chatting don’t add up to $$$! Without giving exhibitors the chance to grow revenues and build market share, sooner or later they either go bust, sell, or stop comming.

I am sorry, but listening to all this boo hooing over Jeff is tiring. There used to be a running joke that the only person in VoIP making money is Pulver. Feel free to blame all of the “outsiders” that brought Von down, but please remember that Jeff sold this property twice and made a ton of money both times. He saw the writting on the wall on his event and left. Jeff left because he knew the show was shrinking and things were drying up for an event that seems to have been more important to the self-indulgent blogger crowd and others who’s companies are parasites on trade shows.

Arjun

I’d like to echo positive sentiments for VON as well. Every company has its ups and downs. I have been exhibiting and/or speaking at VON for several years now. Interestingly, I have found the VON folks to be be good to work with, especially Carl Ford. There used to be a time, in my previous company, where we used to pay for exhibit booths, and as our company grew, so did our booths, which meant more revenue for VON. Subsequently, I moved to a different company, where our business model did not warrant us to exhibit at VON. Even so, Carl Ford, Stephanie and folks helped with the initial exposure. I also remember, during the down turn, Jeff Pulver gave away many free passes to people who wanted to visit VON just for job prospecting (I know this because a couple of people I knew were in this unfortunate situation and explicitly told me so). On the other side, theirs is a business. There has to be pros and cons. Many comments in this thread seem to have taken a very harsh tone, which is unfortunate.

What happens to PulverMedia is another story. The problem however is that PulverMedia is closely associated to individuals who I think are good people. As long as we are able to differentiate between the person and the business, I think thats fair.

regds
Arjun Roychowdhury

Alan Clark

We have been regular participants in Spring/Fall VON’s since 2001 (even during the recession) and echo many of the sentiments expressed above. During 2001-5 the VON show was “the” show for VoIP and we found it a great event. Since 2006 we found Pulver Media more difficult to work with, overly “commercial”, lacking in vision and over-confident (e.g. the proliferation of VON’s). Pulver Media missed the boat on (Telco) IPTV and lost this opportunity to TelcoTV and IPTV World Forum – hence with the maturing of the VoIP industry attendance at VON has been declining.

We have enjoyed working with some of the VON/Pulver people, notably Carl, and we wish them well and hope that Pulver Media is able to re-emerge.

Alan

anonymous

Yes, but will Jeff be able to reclaim his brand and get rid of the schmucks in Boston?

Jeff hasn’t blogged word one on his back room negoiations, nor of the implosion of pulvermedia. Very telling.

I wonder if Chundofsky can even spell GigaOm.

Magic 8-ball says “Outcome in doubt; try again later”

Lee Dryburgh

Anonymous (5:10pm, 3rd April) – next time provide your name.

I take your comments as offense from someone who will not reveal their identity and was therefore just going to ignore it. But just for the record – the “spam” which you relate to was an act of courtesy towards the hard working SIP community. In short I’d considered including SIP in a negative write-up of the VoIP vision as part of the event (eComm) material; because I see a number of dark clouds that are only getting bigger with time over the protocol.

Since I know the SIP lot and some of the authors on a friendship basis I put my text to the SIP community and asked if anyone could put me off. As it happens Dan York provided (off list) arguments strong enough to deter what I planned – so no negative SIP comments got included in published materials. So job done.

So in no way was it “spam” by any measurement and rather it was an act of courtesy towards the SIP WG (and with a favourable outcome had I not posted it). The problem with the SIP religion is many have cult mentality and can not take any criticism and only come back with offense. I’d suggest your in that latter camp. Get out the 90s and move on, get help for your Stockholm Standards Syndrome [1]. VON was a place where you could practice your religion without question and against reality unfolding in the market year after year – so I understand your loss. There is hope some people are prepared to ask questions [2][3].

[1] http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0198-256271/S-sup-4-the-System.html
[2] http://www.ietf.org/internet-drafts/draft-kaplan-sip-four-oh-00.txt
[3] http://ss7.net/resources/sip-concerns/sip-future-waclawsky.pdf

Lee Dryburgh

Anonymous (5:10pm, 3rd April) – next time provide your name.

I take your comments as offense from someone who will not reveal their identity and was therefore just going to ignore it. But just for the record – the “spam” which you relate to was an act of courtesy towards the hard working SIP community. In short I’d considered including SIP in a negative write-up of the VoIP vision as part of the event (eComm) material; because I see a number of dark clouds that are only getting bigger with time over the protocol.

Since I know the SIP lot and some of the authors on a friendship basis I put my text to the SIP community and asked if anyone could put me off. As it happens Dan York provided (off list) arguments strong enough to deter what I planned – so no negative SIP comments got included in published materials. So job done.

So in no way was it “spam” by any measurement and rather it was an act of courtesy towards the SIP WG (and with a favourable outcome had I not posted it). The problem with the SIP religion is many have cult mentality and can not take any criticism and only come back with offense. I’d suggest your in that latter camp. Get out the 90s and move on, get help for your Stockholm Standards Syndrome [1]. VON was a place where you could practice your religion without question and against reality unfolding in the market year after year – so I understand your loss. There is hope some people are prepared to ask questions [2][3].

Anyhow since you know the list posting, you know my email so fire me a direct email if you want to discuss the SIP issue further.

[1]http://goliath.ecnext.com/coms2/gi_0198-256271/S-sup-4-the-System.html
[2] http://www.ietf.org/internet-drafts/draft-kaplan-sip-four-oh-00.txt
[3] http://ss7.net/resources/sip-concerns/sip-future-waclawsky.pdf

morestuff

The senior management team certainly is not going to step up and take responsibility for their poor strategy, plain and simple. Jason, the king of the Comdex era, never took any responsibility for poor management decisions at that time either.

Remember, alot of the “recent” hires, are all x-Key3media folks cut from the same used car sales cloth. That is the cloth of maximize a brand, maximize the customer spend and water down a solid brand.

Two plus years ago customers were questions the “global” vision and it was ignored. Too many cities, too much expense, too small a VON team to support so many events at once and therefor a diluted effort.

The core VON team (those that were with Jeff during the ups and downs) are the folks that are the most burned right now. They have put their lives into Jeff, VON, the company and the vision.

There is no question about these issues being attributed to the top, not necessarily the economics. Jason’s complaints about the economy is because in his mind, the revenue was not nearly enough to meet the expectations of the story he told the investors. That in itself is the problem.

Jeff simply trusted the wrong people to run his brand.

anonymous

Hmm. Pulvermedia and CEO Jason blame the company’s problems on the economy, while VoiceCon and other shows kicked their ass in terms of enthusiasm and buzz.

While burning through $12 million without a consistent strategy for expanding their events portfolio other than “add, execute, drop,” no web strategy; they have the same crappy vonmag.com website as they did a year ago.

I suppose it would be too much for any of the executive management team involved with the current fiasco — leave Jeff out of it, because he was simply the party host/figurehead — to stand up and accept responsibility for their actions?

No, easier to blame it on the economy than accept the fact they couldn’t build a diversified portfolio of events and other products to save their lives when they had they had the cash.

I suppose TICC is willing to go along with it, since otherwise they’d have to admit they got suckered.

Anonymous

Mr Dryburgh,
Please show some class. I remember you spammed the IETF SIP mailing list a few months ago with a discussion just geared towards your hosted conference agenda. And now you are captializing this situation by slamming VoN, and at the same time advertising your own links in every post in this list.

Anonymous

Figures, Jason would call one of his bitches in the trade show industry to put something out while they scramble for VC/Jeff money.

Please note Hil Anderson didn’t talk to someone at TICC.

Please also note that “business as usual” is a patent LIE. If you fire your sales force, how can you take orders? If you fire your If you fire your editorial and marketing staff, you don’t put out the daily newsletters; when’s the last time anyone has seen a piece of e-mail out of pulvermedia plugging one of their events alleged to be moving forward?

This is just bullshit.

hereyougo

(http://www.tradeshowexecutive.com/news_online_main.asp?id=529)
Pulvermedia Reorganizing & Downsizing

By Hil Anderson, senior editor

Melville, NY – Pulvermedia, Inc. is undergoing a restructuring that included some layoffs March 31; however company officials denied rumors the company had been shut down or was about to be acquired.

Jason Chudnofsky, CEO of the company’s Events Group, told Trade Show Executive that Pulvermedia was in a “silent period” during which there would be no public discussion of the details of the reorganization. He said, “Right now, it’s business as usual with some reorganizing taking place” and that the company remained “focused on our upcoming events.”

Pulvermedia organizes the VON events that serve the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) industry.

“We are restructuring our financing and organization and, yes, had layoffs to deal with the economy and what we felt could be challenging times for the industry,” Chudnofsky said. “Unfortunately, all this came at one time and created the rumors that we are all reading.”

The rumor mill originated among blogs dedicated to the high-tech and VoIP industries. They pointed to unconfirmed reports that Pulvermedia was having difficulties with its financial backers.

In the March 13 10-K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, TICC Capital Corp. cited a $10.6 million loss in its investment in Pulvermedia. The document said the losses from Pulvermedia and two other portfolio companies was “in part attributable to worsening economic conditions in the industries in which those portfolio companies operate.”

The filing said specifically that Pulvermedia had been hurt by consolidation within the telecommunications industry and was “projecting a substantial reduction in its business.”

“In addition, the likelihood of a recession is also having a dramatic impact on the number of attendees at the company’s shows,” the document continued. “The company is attempting to raise additional equity and exploring other strategic options.”

Reach Jason Chudnofsky at (631) 961-1100 or Jason@pulvermedia.com

wake_up_bloggers_

Wake up people….and think about who is most severly effected in situations like this – the employees.

The people we shouldn’t be forgeting about are the great employees of Pulvermedia (many of who we know) as they have been treated very unfairly in this situation. They are the people that made VON happen behind the scenes and now they are forgotten and fed to wolves to seek employment from the standoint of not having a job and in a tough economy.

The investors, Jeff Pulver, the CEO and the CFO all have plenty of money to move forward and will be fine believe me. The employees got screwed as they no have no income, no severance, and won’t even have health insurance or be eligibile for Cobra if the company shuts down completely.
This situation happened because the $11 million dollar investment that went into the company in 2007 went to pay off Jeff’s lavish lifesytle of debt and travel expenses and no investments or management moves were made to protect the company (Jeff’s lifesyle hasn’t changed – look at his blog – he has not missed a beat in his travel schedule while everyone in his company was losing their jobs at the hand of the bank)
If Jeff’s last three VON keynotes weren’t talking about Facebook, social networking, and internet TV then maybe the show would not have lost focus and wouldn’t be in this situation. Conferences must remain relevant to survive, they need to be sexy and some of this is not Jeff’s fault becuase VOIP is not sexy. But then you can ask – how come Voicecon is growing? Because they remained relevant and turned it into a UC enterprise show which is where industry is growing right now.

The situation is simple, the company was never in the situation to be able to make those huge debt payments and when the industry starting declining the correct strategic management decisions were not made. So basically if Jeff and the C-level Pulver management hadn’t put the company in huge debt and were properly planning for the future like upper management is supposed to do then they would not be in this situation – period end of story. This is also the second time that huge investments have been made in Pulvermedia to pay off Jeff’s debt, sounds like a good plan to me. I wish I could find some investors to write off millions of dollars of my debt and move along only to do it again five years later.

It is really sad that in a country like the U.S. that all laws are created by the rich to protect the rich and in situations like this the hard working employees that need protection the most are forgotten about just like they have been on this blog – that is what is sad – not poor rich Jeff Pulver and his filthy rich c-level management.

We should be offering those employees jobs where we can…. and yes I have been helping a few of them already so I am practicing what I preach…

anonymous

Let’s not forget about the great job that Jason Chudnofsky, President and CEO of Pulvermedia and
Pulvermedia’s CFO/COO Scott Kargman did.

Lee Dryburgh

The most ridiculous thing I’ve read in terms of comments in the
past year was the comment above that Jeff P. invented Skype! Jeff had
nothing to do with the invention of Skype.

In fact Skype was a thorn in the side of the VON because VON remained
locked to the SIP multi-modality view – i.e. that SIP will take over
the world. Even ten years on they have clung to that vision.
I guess it makes sense for them since the operators and particularly
the vendors got great (albeit hot air in the long run) marketing
material from SIP. Whereas the modern reality is that ten years on SIP
is being relegated either to digital POTS replacement apps (yawn and
no consumer traction) or simple trunking applications.

I recall ten years ago holding SS7 classes and students asking what
the point of learning it was since they claimed SIP would replace it
within a few years along with VoIP replacing TDM. Ten years on, SS7 is
still used in 99% of networks worldwide, just the same as ten years
back. It always amazes me the difference between hype and reality.

When Skype appeared it was chastised and heavily put down by the VON
lot. Within a year they began to realise they would have to accept it
and within two years embraced it although they never dropped the SIP
religion; I suspect because SIP gave marketing ammunition for vendors and
carriers who paid to exhibit at VON. Even today you get bitter comments made by the VON lot towards Skype and amazingly still, many still try to push FWD.

Vonage is just digital POTs and it seems some folks are still getting
excited about cheaper calling. The world sure is a diverse place.

Skype was another league from Vonage as it made the original SIP
vision of a multi-modality client a reality for around half a billion
people (have a listen to
http://ecommmedia.com/blog/2008/02/jonathan-christensen-skype.html).
Skype was in another league as 1) it just worked without the user
needing a manual and a prayer to configure 2) it traversed
firewalls/NATs 3) the GIPS Codec was wideband and built for the public
Internet 4) it used P2P techniques for the signalling.

Skype was seen as a danger as it did not need all the SIP boxes in the
network and no boxes means no vendors which means no tradeshow which
means no VON.

PS Was FWD invented by Thomas Anglero?

Jahangir Raina

Pulver has been trying to sell his company (again) since 2005. I was helping out a small investment group a couple of years back in identifying possible acquisitions for their clients and stumbled upon someone there who was actively seeking a buyer for VON shows. Again! I don’t understand Pulver’s motivation to sell something that has been his bread and butter and the only success he has had so far.

http://www.ilocus.com/2008/04/will_the_nice_guy_save_his_von.html

anonymous

Let’s not forget the President and CEO of Pulvermedia Jason Chudnofsky
Pulvermedia’s CFO and COO Scott Kargman

For the great work they have done.

justan

sure he invented the industry and worked with gore to invent the internet. Sadly, the facts get lost in the pr shuffle. i worked for vocaltec and jeff pulver was nowhere to be seen when my company invented the first voip softphone and gateway.

yes, jeff is nice, gives to charity and helps old ladies cross the street. saying he invented the industry is just plain crazy.

if he invented the voip industry then alan meckler invented the internet industry. Sorry al gore, we have to give the credit where it is due.

Alan

What ever comes of VON, it has been a good ride. It does seem that the focus of Jeff’s vision and PulverMedia executives has been diverging for some time. Frankly, they both messed up.

I tip my hat to those that worked long days, spent untold hours behind the scenes and made all those events since 1997 come together. You always amazed me with the ability to “make it happen”.

I just wonder what The Herding Cats are going to do for a living?

Chris Porto

OK, now that I have read every posting I have a few comments:

1) There is much to be said for the brain play but there is also nothing wrong with trying to monetize the IP (no pun) by bringing in someone assumed to be a heavy hitter, Jason, in the industry. Perhaps the growth into BRIC markets and other areas stretched the VON concept too thin, too soon, but in 5 years people will be screaming for vision in these markets and VON was there on the ground floor and should stay.

2) I love Ian Bell and that crazy canuck should get into Jersey so we can have another great steak dinner. Ask yourself, between Pulver and Citron who was banned from Wall Street and why??? After you answer that go shoot yourself for blaming Pulver for the Vonage debacle. Having said that, it is Citron’s leadership that has gotten them thru the patent litigation, and other internal struggles, and you can bet he will make the stockholders some cash when he finds the right buyer.

3) There is no way a VC understands how to make money in this model. I am a bit surprised at the level of investment that was allowed to take place. Knowing some of the people at senior management levels on the Pulver side you can bet that the issue here lays firmly in the expectation of the INVESTORS not in the performance of the company.

Outside of that when you know and love Jeff Pulver, when you see that he CREATED an industry, when you see the charitable work he and his family do you know that God is on his side and VON is going nowhere. Hey anybody who can say he thought up Vonage and Skype (FWD) and chose to work on Vonage (and let Nikki take Skype)you know the man is a force to be reckoned with.

Chris Porto

Jeff is the king and if you know anything about him you know he would never let something silly like money come between him and VON. He IS VOIP and if he goes away you can bet there will be nobody with enough balls to stand in front of Congress to tell them to sod off and tax something else. I have a call into him now but I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that this is bollocks and Jeff will be back strong with Fall VON. If not you can file in the same can as the “Bear Stearns liquidity is fine” crowd.

Love Chris

Lee Dryburgh

Carl,

I can’t understand your cryptic comment regarding ETel and Cook list – it was me who started the thread on Cook’s list that ETel was cancelled and that the community had a chance to bring about something better as a replacement in the shape of eComm (5 minutes after cancellation this was decided and made public so there was no cancellation just a change of hands from O’Reilly to myself and community – and an opportunity to expand things to be more inclusive than just telephony).

I searched my mail box and checked, the only thing Gordon said in relation to ETel on that thread was “what made it attractive to me was how very leading edge it was “.

Anyhow feel free to email me. Regards, Lee

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