A week ago I announced that Jim Schaff would be taking over active duties at Stage Two, and that I’d be focusing on “other stuff.” Today I’m excited to share the stuff: I am joining the management team of Dijit Media as Chief Product Officer, where I’m responsible for product and marketing (here’s the official update). Not only that, my virtually common law married colleague (business partners for much of the past 14 years) and very close friend Adam Burg is the company’s VP of Business Development.
Last Fall, I gave a presentation at the Set-Top Box Conference in San Jose, and the entire drive back I had a feeling of near elation. Not that I had said anything extremely profound, but it was wrapped up in the feeling of doing something I had a lot of passion for – in this case, discussing the future of television. Over the next few months, I spent a lot of time doing research in the Smart TV (also called Connected TV or Internet TV) space, and started seeing some trends emerge, and realized there were some very interesting business opportunities on the horizon.
Adam and I spent months developing a prototype concept of the vision we had, and went to meet with some of the brightest folks we know in the convergence field. One such bright folk was well-known VC Stewart Alsop, who I’ve known since the late 1990s, who introduced us to Maksim Ioffe, CEO of Dijit. In our very first meeting with Maksim it was clear he shared much of the same industry and product vision and philosophy with Adam and me. I’ll keep this part of the story short, as we’ve all seen this movie before – we ended up agreeing to join the company. And there was much rejoicing (yay).
The grand vision of Dijit is to create the ultimate “four screen” (phone, tablet, computer, TV) social entertainment experience, one which seamlessly merges disparate products and platforms and content into one single, easy to use, consumer offering. The company is well on its way, and its first product is an iPhone app that enables a really sophisticated, yet elegantly simple control experience for home media centers. As Maksim put it, “Consumers have 21st-century home entertainment experiences but are stuck with remote controls that haven’t been updated since the 1980s.” The company partnered with Griffin to produce the Beacon, a clever take on the “IR blaster” product, and one that’s already receiving solid reviews (and I haven’t even done anything yet!). This is going to be a very exciting company to be a part of, and I’m thrilled to have such an opportunity.
I still recall the early days at Mediabolic, where we enabled networked home entertainment solutions that interfaced with legacy, analog consumer electronics devices (yes, we were networking the living room in an era where there were virtually no HDTVs, no YouTube, no Pandora, and no… iPod!). At Mediabolic I learned what it takes to design and build embedded entertainment devices, to work with consumer electronics manufacturers, and the deep set of challenges surrounding the connected home industry (fun trivia: I heard the phrase “this is THE year of the digital home” every single year starting in 2001 – possibly earlier). It was a great experience, and key people from that team now work at amazing companies like Netflix, Rovi Corp (Rovi acquired Mediabolic in 2007), etc.
At Sling Media I had the unique opportunity to work for and with some outstanding individuals, not to mention the position of being tasked with figuring out how to deliver the perfect “living room experience” – only over the Internet. The company’s CEO, Blake Krikorian, taught me the meaning of focusing on every detail and nuance, remaining truly innovative, and keeping the consumer’s wants and needs in the forefront of every product decision. I also had to learn the ins and outs of social media, back in the era before it was called “social media,” where “the bloggers” were a special, hard to understand subset of humanity (or, as I rapidly learned, just cool people). We accomplished a great success building the Slingbox, and I’m proud of the product, the team, and the experience.
Over the past four years at Stage Two, I’ve had tremendous exposure to startups, big companies, CEOs, visionaries, the media, and managing a great team. We literally put companies like Boxee, Bug Labs, and Pogoplug on the map, and have also had the chance to work for well-established firms like Electronic Arts, Best Buy, and VUDU (now Wal-Mart). I’ve learned from entrepreneurs like Jim Lanzone (now president of CBS Interactive), Peter Semmelhack (Bug Labs), David McIntosh (Redux), Rahim Fazal (Involver) and so many others (I’ll write another post in the next little while chock full of shout-outs). I’ve redesigned product experiences for dozens of products, and created marketing/PR/social media campaigns for dozens more, and had the pleasure to work with great teams along the way.
And now I’m taking all of the above, and putting it to work at one place. Welcome to Dijit.