Friday, October 17, 2008

A day in the life

For those of you still battling the financial markets, my hat's off to you, and I have little to offer apart from my sympathy and an old North American folk remedy... Yesterday I was fortunately able to get away from my recently obsessive perch in front of the computer, basking in a red glow of stupifaction. 
My first stop in the morning was the studios of TelecomTV, where I took part in a panel with my friends Simon Torrance from the Telco 2.0 initiative, and John Karidis from MF Global, interviewed by the charming Martyn Warwick. The overall theme was similar to that covered in these posts, with the conclusion pointing towards a need to embrace different models in future. The finished product should be released on Monday, and I will link to it when it becomes available.
I next headed over to moderate a panel at the Streaming Media Europe event in the shadow of the beautiful Hammersmith Flyover (strangely, the hotel had no internet access). My panelists were Frederic Court of Advent (investors in Daily Motion), Alain Courtines of Intel Capital (investors in ManiaTV and Veoh), and Taavet Hinrikus from Skype, who is an advisor to Ambient Sound Ventures (investors in It was a very interesting exchange, which I can't really do justice here. However, the main points were: 
  • The current financial turmoil should not obscure the fact that the long-term prospects of video on the net are strong and we're only at the beginning of this revolution;
  • Monetization remains a challenge, and advertisers are still experimenting with formats, but content publishers are warming up to the space, and some old models (e.g., the "soap opera" approach) are staging a comeback (all this discussion was very consistent with what I heard/saw at the Level(3) event);
  • Given the paucity of exit opportunities for the foreseeable future, the VC community generally (not just Sequoia - it seemed that all the coverage around this irritated the panel) are taking a long look at their portfolio companies, reappraising cash burn thresholds and refinancing needs, and are changing their criteria around appraisal of new investments. 
  • The panel's view was that, apart from something with a really unique UI or other differentiator, new video platforms are going to be exceedingly difficult to finance. More likely targets for investment in the video space are technologies which allow cost-cutting, roll-ups of distressed competitors, enablers of better ad targeting, unique mobile iterations (Qik was held up as one example), and the like. 
Thanks to the Streaming Media people for the invitation (and the free meal!), and to my panelists for enduring both a journey to Hammersmith and 45 minutes in a room with me!

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