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Can Rocketboom Survive Its Talent Drain & Money Troubles?

Some in the independent web video world were shocked this week to learn that Kenyatta Cheese and Ellie Rountree, long-time contributors at Rocketboom and Know Your Meme, were leaving to pursue other interests. But they aren’t the only ones to leave, as Rocketboom seems to be facing a mass exodus of employees and contributors, due in part to a lack of cash.

Both Rountree and Cheese both announced their decisions on Tuesday morning, but each said that the timing was coincidental. “What I can say is it was great at Rocketboom, but time to go. ¬†After producing, writing, and hosting great weekly original content, including websites (Know Your Meme and Rocketboom Tech), this was the right time to bow out and focus on other endeavors. After almost 5 years at Rocketboom it’s bittersweet to leave, but the right decision,” Rountree said via email.

The separate announcements by Cheese and Rountree might have come as a surprise because both had been with Rocketboom for so long: Rountree had served nearly five years with Rocketboom as a producer, writer and co-creator of Know Your Meme and Rocketboom Tech, and Cheese had served four years with the company, with his last title listed as COO of the indie video startup.

But while they were the highest-profile departures, Rocketboom has seen another five employees leave since November. Those include Greg Leuch and Chris Menning, who both left late last year to join viral video site Buzzfeed. And yesterday, Know Your Meme contributors Mike Rungetta and Patrick Davison told founder Andrew Baron that they would no longer work with the company.

Rocketboom has a history of public comings and goings when it comes to staff, including the drama-heavy departure of original host Amanda Congdon and a public talent hunt for new hosts that lead to the hiring of Meme Molly, who is still currently the host of the Rocketboom show.

One reason that so many employees have left recently is that Rocketboom is struggling with money issues and has been for a while. In a phone interview, Baron said that he personally invested $700,000 in the company in 2010, but that it ran out of cash sometime in October. At that point point Baron sought outside investment for the first time, but employees were understandably nervous. Baron said that Cheese and Rountree decided to leave in part because Rocketboom was unable to secure additional funds over the last several months.

For now, the company continues to operate month-to-month, but Baron claims it has secured a few sponsorship deals that should keep it in business. While it has seen seven people depart since November, Baron said the startup still has 13 employees working for it over three distinct businesses. The legacy Rocketboom and Know Your Meme video shows continue, and the company also has a large — and growing — community of users on its independently run Know Your Meme forum. It also runs a viral video tracker called Magma.

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9 Responses to “Can Rocketboom Survive Its Talent Drain & Money Troubles?”

  1. I’m deeply saddened by these recent departures. Not just because of the loss of talent, but because of the fact that those people were awesome. Rocketboom should be fine. But I sincerely hope that the people who replace those that have left are just as talented and just as devoted to the sites. Those people involved themselves in the community and the projects they worked on were important to them on a personal level. Can Rocketboom do it again? Will the new employees be as good as the last batch?
    In any case, the people who have “left” are still for the most part heavily involved in KYM, at least. Because KYM is important to them on a personal level, they continue to contribute and participate despite not being employed by Rocketboom. These are the types of people we need on the team.

    On a side note, I had no idea we were considered an independently operating community. Though I suppose it’s true. We have developed a sort of subculture all our own on the KYM Forums.

  2. I thought that Rocketboom was one of the most solid online video production companies going, guess I was wrong. Unless it is just hyperbole like Andrew has said via his comment. I’m really into Save the Date by the way :)